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Tapestry Thursday/Friday: That Ain’t Wallpaper, Guys! The Riddarsalen Tapestries, Frederiksborg Castle (Denmark)

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So, Tapestry Thursday Friday it is! Hopefully I’ll get better at posting things on Thursdays, but just now, as in many other areas in my life, I’m having trouble being punctual. But anyway, on with the show…

Today’s woven work is actually pretty freaking huge, and looks more like wallpaper than a traditional hanging tapestry. It’s also made up of several pieces joined together, so I guess one would have to discuss it in the plural instead of the singular. We’re talking about, just in case you were wondering, the tapestries in Riddarsalen (The Great Hall) in Frederiksborg Castle in Hillerød, Denmark, just outside of Copenhagen. I was there a couple of weeks ago with a friend and after a leisurely stroll in the Baroque gardens, we loafed into the castle itself. After pulling out our wallets at the ticket desk, we were informed that the place was closing in an hour. “No problem!” we said, and ambitiously walked away at a dangerously slow pace, confident that one hour was plenty of time. Well, we ended up spending a good 15 minutes in the first room alone (mainly discussing architecture) and then got caught up in the beauty of the castle’s chapel (saving that for another post), before realizing that they were closing in 10 minutes and we still hadn’t seen the riddarsal. Cue the Benny Hill-style music as we ran through various rooms trying to figure out which way to go, and were at last pointed up a tiny set of steps to our final destination.

And let me tell you, it was well worth the sprinting and the sweating. You really get that wind-knocked-out-of-you/I’m-at-Versailles kind of feeling (confession: I’ve never been to Versailles). As I ran around frantically taking as many pictures as I could to analyze later, I noticed that the walls were not actually covered in wallpaper, as it would seem from after, but tapestries! Hence the reason for this post, and I will now tell you all what you came here to read, i.e. what they show, when were they made, and who took all the time to weave these things (twice!).

Since a big part of the castle burned down in the 1859, the original riddarsalen, along with its tapestries, were irreperably damaged. But, thanks to the efforts of the Danish people and J.C. Jacobsen (the founder of the Carlsberg brewery), they were able to restore the castle to its original glory, including having the tapestries rewoven. The castle was renovated from 1874-1880, but the tapestries took twenty-eight years to complete after the work started in 1900.

They were recreated after the original designs by Karel von Mander and woven after cartoons by C.N. Overgaard. The actual weaving took place in Denmark by Danish weavers who had trained at Les Gobelins in Paris, which was unusual for the time (and I guess still is). The quality of the work is exceptional; everything is so vivid, so lifelike, and so harmonic. It might sound cheesy, but even in my five minutes there, I knew immediately that I was surrounded by something special.

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The narrative series portrayed are as follows: scenes from the Kalmar War (1611-13, where Denmark won back a part of Norway from Sweden), Christian 4’s coronation procession (he was the king that commissioned the buidling of the castle, crowned 1596, died 1648), and scenes “from a guard room”, which sadly, I’m not sure what that actually entails. I managed to get a picture of one of the panels depicting the Kalmar War; it’s the one up there that also shows a girl poking the tapestry.

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Here are a.) a detail from the coronation (I think), and b.) bits of the ceiling (awesome) and fireplace (equally as awesome). All the tapestries are fitted against the wall and follow all the turns and curves, even into the window niches. Quite a work of double trompe-l’oeil!

Seriously, if you get a chance to visit the castle, go straight to the chapel and Riddarsalen, since they are just mindblowingly amazing. I wish I had more time to explore and see more things close up, but that’ll have to wait until next time.

More on the tapestries here (in Danish, use Google Translate!), and the castle in general here.  

(Except for the orb photo, all pictures were taken by me.)

Looks can be deceiving. Even though these two women seem like they could be twins— after all, they are wearing exactly identical clothing, jewelry, and hairstyles— there is actually 12 years between them. But they are sisters, not just to each other, but also to the artist Théodore Chassériau (1819-1856).
Read more about the clothing, painting style, and subjects on the Louvre’s website (in French). 
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Théodore CHASSÉRIAU (Samana (Saint-Domingue), 1819 - Paris, 1856)Les deux soeursc. 18431.80m x 1.35mMusée du Louvre, Paris, R.F. 2214.

Looks can be deceiving. Even though these two women seem like they could be twins— after all, they are wearing exactly identical clothing, jewelry, and hairstyles— there is actually 12 years between them. But they are sisters, not just to each other, but also to the artist Théodore Chassériau (1819-1856).

Read more about the clothing, painting style, and subjects on the Louvre’s website (in French). 

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Théodore CHASSÉRIAU (Samana (Saint-Domingue), 1819 - Paris, 1856)
Les deux soeurs
c. 1843
1.80m x 1.35m
Musée du Louvre, Paris, R.F. 2214.

Pastelmania at the (other) Tate!

After reading the above review in Apollo Magazine (online!), I had to find out more about the mini-exhibition in question that’s now on view at Tate Britain. People usually talk about France when they discuss pastels, and England gets sometimes forgotten. Not any more, I’m happy to say. 

On view: 7 April to 5 October 2014.

I’m sharing a bit of Asian art for a change (which is one of my other loves, though it’s not always evident here). I also think that print culture is fascinating regardless of its country of origin, and this example of a 1930s print from Japan is a great example. 
If you’re in the D.C. area, make sure and check out the fabulous collections at the Freer & Sackler Galleries. They currently have a show on about aquatic life in Japan through prints, paintings, and ceramics that looks supremely interesting. It’s on view until 14 September 2014. (Side note: the above print does not come from that exhibition.)

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Kiyosu Bridge
1931Kawase Hasui, (Japanese, 1883 - 1957)Showa eraWoodblock print; ink and color on paperH: 26.2 W: 38.8 cmRobert O. Muller Collection S2003.8.761 

I’m sharing a bit of Asian art for a change (which is one of my other loves, though it’s not always evident here). I also think that print culture is fascinating regardless of its country of origin, and this example of a 1930s print from Japan is a great example. 

If you’re in the D.C. area, make sure and check out the fabulous collections at the Freer & Sackler Galleries. They currently have a show on about aquatic life in Japan through prints, paintings, and ceramics that looks supremely interesting. It’s on view until 14 September 2014. (Side note: the above print does not come from that exhibition.)

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Kiyosu Bridge
1931
Kawase Hasui, (Japanese, 1883 - 1957)
Showa era
Woodblock print; ink and color on paper
H: 26.2 W: 38.8 cm
Robert O. Muller Collection S2003.8.761 

French satire at its best. 
These bonnets were called “Les Invisibles”, for obvious reasons. This print comes from a larger series satirizing French high-society life in the early decades of the 1800s.
Le Suprême bon ton, “Les Invisibles en tête-à-tête” (plate 19), 1800-1819. Hand-colored engraving. (Can be found in many print rooms, including the British Museum’s in London).

French satire at its best. 

These bonnets were called “Les Invisibles”, for obvious reasons. This print comes from a larger series satirizing French high-society life in the early decades of the 1800s.

Le Suprême bon ton, “Les Invisibles en tête-à-tête” (plate 19), 1800-1819. Hand-colored engraving. (Can be found in many print rooms, including the British Museum’s in London).

It’s Thursday! Time to delve into a little tapestry history. 
Today’s featured object comes from the Louvre (I’m expanding!), and is one of a set of four designed by François Boucher (the people) and  Maurice Jacques (everything else) in 1775. The series is called “The Loves of the Gods” and contains the scenes “Cupid & Psyche”, “Venus Emerging from the Waters”, “Aurora and Cephalus”, and “Vertumnus & Pomona” (pictured above). Such decorative tapestries were popular in the eighteenth century due to the abundance of bright colors, light-hearted themes (no martyrdoms here!), and extensive trompe l’oeil (as evidenced in the vases, garlands and gilded “frame”).
Fun fact: In addition to painting seductive milk maids and fluffy putti for the aristocracy, Boucher was the art director (?!) of the Gobelins factory for 15 years, starting in 1755. He collaborated often with Jacques on tapestries, as was common at the time when works called for the expertise of both a portraitist and a still-life painter were required. These tapestries with ‘decorative surrounds’ were one of the things that made Gobelins tapestries highly sought after.
I’ll write more about the story depicted here in another entry, so hang tight!
Read more info at the Louvre’s website. Photo credits belong to the museum, and especially Peter Harholt, their photographer. 
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François Boucher and Maurice JacquesManufacture des GobelinsFour tapestries from the sixth weaving of the “Loves of the Gods”c. 1775Paris 

It’s Thursday! Time to delve into a little tapestry history. 

Today’s featured object comes from the Louvre (I’m expanding!), and is one of a set of four designed by François Boucher (the people) and  Maurice Jacques (everything else) in 1775. The series is called “The Loves of the Gods” and contains the scenes “Cupid & Psyche”, “Venus Emerging from the Waters”, “Aurora and Cephalus”, and “Vertumnus & Pomona” (pictured above). Such decorative tapestries were popular in the eighteenth century due to the abundance of bright colors, light-hearted themes (no martyrdoms here!), and extensive trompe l’oeil (as evidenced in the vases, garlands and gilded “frame”).

Fun fact: In addition to painting seductive milk maids and fluffy putti for the aristocracy, Boucher was the art director (?!) of the Gobelins factory for 15 years, starting in 1755. He collaborated often with Jacques on tapestries, as was common at the time when works called for the expertise of both a portraitist and a still-life painter were required. These tapestries with ‘decorative surrounds’ were one of the things that made Gobelins tapestries highly sought after.

I’ll write more about the story depicted here in another entry, so hang tight!

Read more info at the Louvre’s website. Photo credits belong to the museum, and especially Peter Harholt, their photographer. 

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François Boucher and Maurice Jacques
Manufacture des Gobelins

Four tapestries from the sixth weaving of the “Loves of the Gods”
c. 1775
Paris

 

"Laila and Majnun in School", Folio from a Khamsa (Quintet) of Nizamiby Nizami (Ilyas Abu Muhammad Nizam al-Din of Ganja) (probably 1141–1217)

One of the best-known stories of Nizami’s Khamsa (Quintet) is that of Laila and Majnun, a tale akin to that of the star-crossed lovers Romeo and Juliet. This folio illustrates their meeting at the madrasa (school) where they fall in love at first sight. In addition to the young lovers, this highly detailed painting depicts activities typical of the sixteenth-century schoolyard—with children burnishing paper, practicing their penmanship, and reading various types of books. Although the story takes place in Arabia, the architectural setting is quintessentially Persian.

(Taken from the Met’s website.) 
I wasn’t aware that this story even existed, so when I saw it on (where else) the Met’s website, it really captured my attention. I love how it shows the development of a schoolyard crush from 500 years ago. (That’s a relative understatement, since the whole story is based on this “crush” turning into a full-on obsession/descent into madness that ends in tragic death for both parties.) But if one just focuses on this scene, it translates pretty readily for anyone who has ever sat in class and daydreamed about the cutie across the room. I find this shared experience across the ages to be both fascinating and comforting. 


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Sultan Muhammad Nur (ca. 1472–ca. 1536)
Mahmud MuzahhibPainting by Shaikh Zada
Folio from an illustrated manuscript
A.H. 931/A.D. 1524–25
present-day Afghanistan, Herat
Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper
Painting: H. 7 1/2 in. (19.1 cm) W. 4 1/2 in. (11.4 cm) Page: H. 12 5/8 in. (32.1 cm) W. 8 3/4 in. (22.2 cm) Mat: H. 19 1/4 in. (48.9 cm) W. 14 1/4 in. (36.2 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Gift of Alexander Smith Cochran, 1913, inv. no. 13.228.7.7.

"Laila and Majnun in School", Folio from a Khamsa (Quintet) of Nizami
by Nizami (Ilyas Abu Muhammad Nizam al-Din of Ganja) (probably 1141–1217)

One of the best-known stories of Nizami’s Khamsa (Quintet) is that of Laila and Majnun, a tale akin to that of the star-crossed lovers Romeo and Juliet. This folio illustrates their meeting at the madrasa (school) where they fall in love at first sight. In addition to the young lovers, this highly detailed painting depicts activities typical of the sixteenth-century schoolyard—with children burnishing paper, practicing their penmanship, and reading various types of books. Although the story takes place in Arabia, the architectural setting is quintessentially Persian.

(Taken from the Met’s website.) 

I wasn’t aware that this story even existed, so when I saw it on (where else) the Met’s website, it really captured my attention. I love how it shows the development of a schoolyard crush from 500 years ago. (That’s a relative understatement, since the whole story is based on this “crush” turning into a full-on obsession/descent into madness that ends in tragic death for both parties.) But if one just focuses on this scene, it translates pretty readily for anyone who has ever sat in class and daydreamed about the cutie across the room. I find this shared experience across the ages to be both fascinating and comforting. 

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Sultan Muhammad Nur (ca. 1472–ca. 1536)
Mahmud MuzahhibPainting by Shaikh Zada
Folio from an illustrated manuscript
A.H. 931/A.D. 1524–25
present-day Afghanistan, Herat
Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper
Painting: H. 7 1/2 in. (19.1 cm) W. 4 1/2 in. (11.4 cm) Page: H. 12 5/8 in. (32.1 cm) W. 8 3/4 in. (22.2 cm) Mat: H. 19 1/4 in. (48.9 cm) W. 14 1/4 in. (36.2 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Gift of Alexander Smith Cochran, 1913, inv. no. 13.228.7.7.

I thought it would be nice to show all of the 7 cartoons that are now at the V&A together here for a little bit of context. They are as follows:

1.) Paul Preaching at Athens

2.) The Sacrifice at Lystra

3.) The Conversion of the Proconsul

4.) The Death of Ananias

5.) Christ’s Charge to Peter

6.) The Healing of the Lame Man

7.) The Miraculous Draugh of Fishes

(More on the above, including image credits can be found here.)

Tapestry Thursday has returned! Today’s selection is not exactly a tapestry, per se, but actually a part of the tapestry-weaving process. This preliminary version is called a cartoon, and that’s what you see above. It’s a cartoon for one of the scenes from Raphael (of Urbino!)’s Lives of SS Peter and Paul. The finished woven works have hung in the Sistine Chapel since their completion in the first decade of the 16th century. Raphael and his workshop finished the ten cartoons (seven which are now on display in London) in 1516 and afterwards they were sent to Brussels to be woven by Pieter van Aelst and his assistants. Here’s a little background on how Raphael, painter of portraits and religious scenes, came to be selected for the project:

[Leo X’s] choice of Raphael as designer of the tapestries was a bold move. Tapestries had long been a speciality of Flanders, with Flemish artists providing the designs and doing the weaving. By commissioning tapestry designs from one of the giants of Italian art, Leo X was creating something special - a combination of Italian Renaissance aesthetics and Flemish weaving expertise.

Raphael was already involved in numerous projects when he received the commission. Fortunately, he had by this time established a workshop and was able to enlist the help of his assistants. He and his workshop completed the cartoons by December of 1516, little over a year after receiving the commission. The cartoons were sent to the Brussels workshop of tapestry weaver Pieter van Aelst in early 1517. The commission of the tapestry cycle, including the designs and the completed tapestries, cost Leo X 16,000 ducats - more than five times the amount paid to Michelangelo for the decoration of the Sistine Chapel ceiling.

How finished tapestries came to be in the V&A’s collection is an interesting story, but I’ll attach a link (also the source of the above quote) so that you can read about it further on their website. 
Cartoons often have two lives. Their first incarnation involved them being used as a guide for the weavers when translating the artist’s design into fabric. He or she would paint the motifs to scale on paper, and then send that onward to the weaving workshop, where the cartoon would then be cut into strips and used as a guide for weaving the actual textile. There would be several weavers working on one tapestry, so the strips were distributed throughout the workshop. After they were done, the different woven sections would be woven together and voilà!, tapestry completed.
The fun thing about cartoons is when you compare them to the finished product, you’ll notice that everything is reversed. That’s because the weavers only worked from the backside, but had the cartoons facing them under the loom. 
But they are now seen most commonly in their second life cycle. One usually runs across cartoons in many museum collections, but always relined with canvas and framed like normal paintings. Oftentimes if you look closely, you can still see the seam in the paper where the sheets were joined together after they were done being used for the weaving process. More often than not, they are cut up into different sized fragments, so often one only sees a tiny part of what was once a huge scene. The Raphael cartoons are special in the way that they are preserved in their entirety. 

RaphaelThe Miraculous Draught of Fishes1515-16Bodycolour over charcoal underdrawing on paper, mounted on canvasHeight 319 cm x width 399 cmOn loan from HM Queen Elizabeth II; rcin 912944(Luke 5:1-11)
Image: The Victoria & Albert Museum, London.

Tapestry Thursday has returned! Today’s selection is not exactly a tapestry, per se, but actually a part of the tapestry-weaving process. This preliminary version is called a cartoon, and that’s what you see above. It’s a cartoon for one of the scenes from Raphael (of Urbino!)’s Lives of SS Peter and Paul. The finished woven works have hung in the Sistine Chapel since their completion in the first decade of the 16th century. Raphael and his workshop finished the ten cartoons (seven which are now on display in London) in 1516 and afterwards they were sent to Brussels to be woven by Pieter van Aelst and his assistants. Here’s a little background on how Raphael, painter of portraits and religious scenes, came to be selected for the project:

[Leo X’s] choice of Raphael as designer of the tapestries was a bold move. Tapestries had long been a speciality of Flanders, with Flemish artists providing the designs and doing the weaving. By commissioning tapestry designs from one of the giants of Italian art, Leo X was creating something special - a combination of Italian Renaissance aesthetics and Flemish weaving expertise.

Raphael was already involved in numerous projects when he received the commission. Fortunately, he had by this time established a workshop and was able to enlist the help of his assistants. He and his workshop completed the cartoons by December of 1516, little over a year after receiving the commission. The cartoons were sent to the Brussels workshop of tapestry weaver Pieter van Aelst in early 1517. The commission of the tapestry cycle, including the designs and the completed tapestries, cost Leo X 16,000 ducats - more than five times the amount paid to Michelangelo for the decoration of the Sistine Chapel ceiling.

How finished tapestries came to be in the V&A’s collection is an interesting story, but I’ll attach a link (also the source of the above quote) so that you can read about it further on their website. 

Cartoons often have two lives. Their first incarnation involved them being used as a guide for the weavers when translating the artist’s design into fabric. He or she would paint the motifs to scale on paper, and then send that onward to the weaving workshop, where the cartoon would then be cut into strips and used as a guide for weaving the actual textile. There would be several weavers working on one tapestry, so the strips were distributed throughout the workshop. After they were done, the different woven sections would be woven together and voilà!, tapestry completed.

The fun thing about cartoons is when you compare them to the finished product, you’ll notice that everything is reversed. That’s because the weavers only worked from the backside, but had the cartoons facing them under the loom. 

But they are now seen most commonly in their second life cycle. One usually runs across cartoons in many museum collections, but always relined with canvas and framed like normal paintings. Oftentimes if you look closely, you can still see the seam in the paper where the sheets were joined together after they were done being used for the weaving process. More often than not, they are cut up into different sized fragments, so often one only sees a tiny part of what was once a huge scene. The Raphael cartoons are special in the way that they are preserved in their entirety. 

Raphael
The Miraculous Draught of Fishes
1515-16
Bodycolour over charcoal underdrawing on paper, mounted on canvas
Height 319 cm x width 399 cm
On loan from HM Queen Elizabeth II; rcin 912944
(Luke 5:1-11)

Image: The Victoria & Albert Museum, London.

Tapestry Thursdays have begun! Except that this time it’s actually Tapestry Friday… I apologize.
This week’s woven work is from the collection of Nordiska museet in Stockholm, where the curators work hard to document and preserve Swedish culture and traditions in every way possible. Although this wall hanging most likely wasn’t made in Sweden, it hung in the spacious manor Vapnö Villa (sometimes refered to as a castle) outside of Halmstad, a city on Sweden’s west coast. The house was, and still is, owned by the Stäel von Holstein family (they’ve lived there since the 1750s). This tapestry was donated to the museum in 1887, and has undergone serious conservation since then (namely the top lefthand corner, which is a bit of painted canvas instead of woven material).
The motif is a hunting scene, which continues on another panel (not pictured) that reveals that the main subject is the goddess Diana. There she is shown holding a bow and arrow, but in this scene we see only her dogs chasing and taking out a few deer.

Unknown, Hunting Scene, second half of the 17th century. 2.55 x 2.40 m. Nordiska museet, Stockholm, NM.0052920a.

Tapestry Thursdays have begun! Except that this time it’s actually Tapestry Friday… I apologize.

This week’s woven work is from the collection of Nordiska museet in Stockholm, where the curators work hard to document and preserve Swedish culture and traditions in every way possible. Although this wall hanging most likely wasn’t made in Sweden, it hung in the spacious manor Vapnö Villa (sometimes refered to as a castle) outside of Halmstad, a city on Sweden’s west coast. The house was, and still is, owned by the Stäel von Holstein family (they’ve lived there since the 1750s). This tapestry was donated to the museum in 1887, and has undergone serious conservation since then (namely the top lefthand corner, which is a bit of painted canvas instead of woven material).

The motif is a hunting scene, which continues on another panel (not pictured) that reveals that the main subject is the goddess Diana. There she is shown holding a bow and arrow, but in this scene we see only her dogs chasing and taking out a few deer.

Unknown, Hunting Scene, second half of the 17th century. 2.55 x 2.40 m. Nordiska museet, Stockholm, NM.0052920a.