“Once Upon a Tapestry: Woven Tales of Helen and Dido” at Norton Simon Museum

“Once Upon a Tapestry: Woven Tales of Helen and Dido” at Norton Simon Museum

“Once Upon a Tapestry: Woven Tales of Helen and Dido” opens at Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena, California, on December 7, 2018, and will be on view through May 27, 2019.

The exhibition explores artworks that explore the fates of two classic mythological heroines whose stories have inspired poets, artists, and musicians over the centuries. Five tapestries from the 16th and 17th centuries, along with a rare set of cartoons will be on view.

“It is an exhibition of exquisite tapestries and rare cartoons (full-size preparatory drawings) that illustrate two iconic love stories found in the classical epic poems the ‘Iliad’ and the ‘Aeneid.’ Helen and her contested romance with Prince Paris of Troy, as described in Homer’s ‘Iliad,’ is represented in four sumptuous Flemish tapestries from around 1500; and Queen Dido of Carthage and her passionate affair with Virgil’s hero Aeneas is represented in a rare set of six cartoons, and one related tapestry from the early 17th century. Seen together, these monumental works of art demonstrate the appeal of these female-centric narratives in early modern Europe, the power of tapestry to tell such stories, and the inventiveness and skill employed to produce these splendid objects, made for only the wealthiest and most distinguished patrons,” the museum writes.

“Medieval poets updated the ancient tale and often added commentary to connect European nobles to their heroic Trojan counterparts. In the visual arts, these contemporized versions of the ‘Iliad’ challenged artists to depict the conflict of battle, and the large-scale, multi-paneled character of tapestry provided a magnificent vehicle for their ambitions,” adds the museum.

One of the exhibited tapestries from the last episode of the lovers’ narrative is part of the Norton Simon Museum’s own collection. The tapestry “Death of Dido” dates back to the 1670s and gives the viewers an opportunity to comprehend the design process, compare the weaving with its cartoon prototype, and appreciate the unique character of each medium. There are six cartoons fashioned in gouache and watercolor on paper too.

For details visit: https://www.blouinartinfo.com/news/story/3405549/once-upon-a-tapestry-woven-tales-of-helen-and-dido-at-norton


Founder: Louise Blouin  


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