We closed 2012 by seeing a "once in a lifetime" installation:The Invention of Glory at the Peabody Essex Museum in our home village of Salem, Massachusetts. Monumental in scale and meticulous in construction, the Pastrana Tapestries are one of the finest examples of Gothic tapestry in existence.
The four, 36-foot-long tapestries are on view together for the first time following an extensive restoration project.
Interpretation of the tapestries is quite simple: a single panel (posted in two locations) is offered at each of four tapestry panels and "decodes" the scenes depicted in the works of art. Photographic reproductions of the tapestries with detail highlights (seen in the photo) invite visitors to seek and find interesting and relevant details. Adjacent walls address the making and restoration efforts through photos and video.
Interpretation was refreshingly minimal and interesting, and directly interrogative. Early Renaissance music played ambiently and softly, setting a respectful tone.
Commissioned by Portugal's King Afonso V (1432-1481) and expertly woven in Belgium's Tournai workshops in the late 1400s, the Pastrana Tapestries are singular for their depiction of a contemporary subject: Afonso's military campaigns in North Africa. Through vibrantly colored wool and silk threads, a vivid scene of military pomp and conquest emerges — knights in full regalia raise their swords to the sky, royal trumpeters sound their advance, ships' masts punctuate the horizon and scenes of battle teem with valor and might. PEM is the exclusive Northeast venue forThe Invention of Glory
. The exhibition is organized by the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., and the Fundación Carlos de Amberes, Madrid, in association with the Embassy of Spain, the Spain-USA Foundation and the Embassy of Portugal, and with the cooperation of the Embassy of Belgium and the Embassy of Morocco in Washington, D.C., as well as the Diocese of Sigüenza-Guadalajara and Church of Our Lady of the Assumption, Pastrana, Spain.