CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

Art and War in the Renaissance – The Battle of Pavia Tapestries

16 June - 15 September 2024

Art and War in the Renaissance – The Battle of Pavia Tapestries

Exhibition: 16 June - 15 September 2024

In the Renaissance, monarchs and religious leaders glorified their power and wealth through the art of tapestry, commissioning some of Europe’s greatest artists to commemorate significant events through the lavish medium. Monumental tapestries, much more costly than paintings, could serve as immersive and elaborate tools for dynamic storytelling and political propaganda, depicting histories in fine wool, silk, and metal-wrapped thread at monumental scale.

Art and War in the Renaissance: The Battle of Pavia Tapestries marks the first time that this entire cycle of seven large-scale tapestries—some of the most awe-inspiring examples of this often-overlooked artform—has been on view in the United States. The tremendous images, each about twenty-seven feet wide and fourteen feet high, commemorate Emperor Charles V’s decisive victory over French King Francis I that ended the sixteenth-century Italian Wars. Designed by court artist Bernard van Orley, the tapestries were woven in Brussels by Willem and Jan Dermoyen in deeply saturated hues and exquisite detail, luxuriously highlighted with gold. Each composition is packed with figures including richly adorned military leaders, horsemen, and mercenary foot soldiers armed with swords, pikes, and firearms, all inhabiting beautifully undulating landscapes dotted with hills, towns, and forests. The immersive scale of the tapestries draws viewers into the world of Renaissance history, military technology, and fashion and will be complemented by impressive examples of arms and armor from the period.

Exhibition Catalogue

Art & War in the Renaissance, published on the occasion of a major traveling exhibition, presents distinctive arms and armor within the rich context of an important tapestry series to highlight the beauty of Renaissance Europe’s war culture.

This significant contribution to art history and military display explores the art of war, from ceremonial armor, arquebuses, and swords to the sumptuous Flemish tapestries depicting the battle of Pavia, the 1525 battle between King François I of France and Holy Roman Emperor Charles V that arguably shaped modern European history.

A vehicle for prestige and propaganda, the unprecedented suite of tapestries from the Museo e Real Bosco di Capodimonte captures the life-size action of the battle of Pavia, as designed by Bernard van Orley, the leading Brussels artist of the time who was famous throughout Renaissance Europe.

The book showcases sixteenth-century fashions, including fine armor, intricately detailed weapons, and haute couture costumes for men of war from the Armeria Farnese, one of Europe’s most significant dynastic armories. Essays by leading scholars delve into the Neapolitan d’Avalos family archive, the conservation efforts to restore the works, as well as their preparatory drawings, now housed at the Louvre. Extensive color plates and many lush details complete this notable volume.

Contributions by Dr. Sylvain Bellenger and Dr. Thomas P. Campbell and Dr. Cecilia Paredes and Graziella Palei and Antonio Tosini and Carmine Romano, Edited by Carmine Romano

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