CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

The divine art: four centuries of European tapestries

Exhibition: 1 November 2008 - 4 January 2009

From the museum website, 18 October 2008

For the first time in the history of the Art Institute, nearly the entirety of its unparalleled tapestry collection is featured in a spectacular presentation. This long-awaited exhibition of 70 tapestries provides a glimpse of a remarkable collection that has been in storage for many years. Subject to one of the largest tapestry conservation projects ever undertaken by a private workshop, the exhibition shows these works of art at their best—dazzling the eye beyond expectation.

The Divine Art features masterpieces from the 15th through the 18th century that will cover entire walls of gallery space. Massive in scale and breathtaking in scope, these life-sized works depict allegories, biblical and Christian themes, events from ancient history, and mythological scenes, as well as representations of everyday life and verdures. Included in the display are significant pieces of European origin, including tapestries from England, Flanders, France, the Franco-Flemish region, Italy, the Netherlands, and Switzerland. A complete set of 14 tapestries comprises a cycle representing The Story of Caesar and Cleopatra. Often produced in multiple suites or chambers, many of the tapestries in this exhibition are connected to related pieces found in collections around the world.


Having undergone an extensive conservation process at the laboratory of De Wit Royal Manufacturers in Mechelen, Belgium, the tapestries were examined by scholars who made extraordinary discoveries about the collection. These findings are detailed in a fully illustrated catalogue available for purchase at the Museum Shop or online at Led by principal author Koenraad Brosens of the Katholieke Universiteit, Leuven, Belgium, European Tapestries in the Art Institute of Chicago marks a major contribution to tapestry scholarship and features chapters on the history of the collection, Chicago donors, technical data, and conservation findings. It will be published by the Art Institute and Yale University Press.


Major funding

The Chauncey and Marion D. McCormick Family Foundation
The Julius Lewis/Rhoades Exhibition Endowment Fund

Additional support

The Community Associates of the Art Institute of Chicago
Support for the catalogue is provided by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation