The Barberini Tapestries: Woven Monuments of Baroque Rome was unveiled at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine this week. The exhibition features an immersive display of the cathedral’s collection of 17th century tapestries, showcased in three of its side chapels: Chapels of St. James, St. Ambrose, and St. Saviour. The twelve tapestries were designed by baroque master Giovanni Francesco Romanelli, and woven for Francesco Barberini, who was the nephew of Pope Urban VII. They not only depict scenes from the Bible, but also portray moments of everyday life.
Before coming to America, this series was installed at the Vatican and at the Barberini family palaces. In 1890, a year prior to the construction of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, a congregant named Elizabeth U. Coles purchased the tapestries and donated them to the cathedral. At the time, their estimated value was $75,000. However, a fire in 2001 seriously damaged several of the tapestries; for the past 16 years, they’ve been lovingly tended to—inch by inch— at the Textile Conservation Laboratory, located behind the cathedral. Now completely restored, the twelve tapestries, with The Life of Christ tapestry set at its core, will be on display for the first time in several decades. Below are a few of the photos taken during the opening reception.
Sacred Geography in the Chapel of St. Ambrose
Tools used in the meticulous process of restoration
John the Evangelist, a fragment of Last Supper tapestry from the Barberini Life of Christ series. This fragment is from one of two tapestries that were burned during the fire at the Cathedral, December 2001.
The exhibition is curated by Marlene Eidelheit, Director of the Textile Conservation Laboratory, and James Harper, professor of art history at the University of Oregon, and renowned scholar on seventeenth-century Rome and the Barberini tapestries. The tapestries and related artifacts will be on view at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, 1047 Amsterdam Ave. at 112th St., through June 25, 2017. The exhibition will then travel to the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art in Eugene, Oregon, where it will be on view from September 23, 2017 to January 21, 2018. A scholarly catalogue written by James G. Harper and Marlene Eidelheit also accompanies the exhibition.
Take a look behind the scenes at The Textile Conservation Laboratory. Discover 10 Secrets of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, and the Half-Finished Cathedral. Get in touch with the author at AFineLyne.