Sunday, 19 September 2010

More On Tapestries

BBC News Magazine has published Lisa Jardine's discerning history of the tapestries from the Sistine Chapel currently being shown at London's V&A Museum (title link). Lisa is one of the trustee's of the V&A and she knows her onions. She knows them so well that she doesn't need to resort to arty bull to try to impress her readers. What a refreshing change! Among the many juicy tit-bits I gleaned from her article is that Pope Leo X, who commissioned the tapestries, was the second son of Lorenzo the Magnificent, head of the Medici banking firm and ruler of the Florentine Republic. So Leo X learned at Daddy's knee how to use art as propaganda and to intimidate the opposition with ostentatious displays of wealth. As we all know, bankers know how to fleece the punters, and Leo X organised the sale of indulgences to reconstruct St Peter's Basilica. Another juicy tit-bit is that the Flemish firm which made these tapestries - the van der Moeyen firm in Brussels - would have been just as happy to secure commissions from Islam as from Christianity. They sent their chief designer Pieter Coeck van Aelst to the Court of the Ottoman Emperor, Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, in Constantinople (now Istanbul). As Islam and Christianity were at war with each other at the time, this was rather like Saatchi and Saatchi offering to make commercials for the Labour Party as well as for the Tories! Pieter failed to secure a commission, but Sultan Suleiman showered him with gifts and he returned to Europe a rich man. (If you can't make it to the V&A, CLICK to view the Vatican tapestries and Raphael's cartoons.)


Post a Comment

<< Home