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Opening of international exhibition unveils historical role of Lithuania in the 15th-16th centuries European tapestry works

On 17 September 2014 international exhibition ‘Medieval and Renaissance Tapestry in Europe. History Woven in Threads’ was opened at the National Museum – Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania. Many of the tapestries selected for the display have never been exhibited or published, they come from private collections in Italy, the United Kingdom, and other European countries, and the United States of America. The exhibition opening featured a musical-literature concert programme, during which a new historical context of tapestry heritage was disclosed.

‘It has become a tradition that every year in autumn National Museum – Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania offers unique exhibition. This time we present absolutely exceptional 400-500 years old monumental textile masterpieces. In old times and even today tapestries are more valuated than paintings or even precious metals. Their series often cost as much as annual budget for a military campaign and cartoons for tapestries were created by such painters as Raphael or Rubens,’  welcoming attendees, Dr Dolinskas, director of the National Museum – Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania said.

According to him, tapestries came to the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Kingdom of Poland during their boom in Europe – 16th century. Rather well known is tapestry set of the Grand Duke of Lithuania and Polish King Sigismundus Augustus, part of it is now kept in the Wawel Royal Castle in Krakow and one tapestry in the National Museum – Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania. Totally, Lithuanian and Polish rulers had amassed a collection of 600 tapestries, which couldn’t match any other in the Europe, but because of the historical plagues these tapestries were scattered, some of them – lost.

‘That`s why we are happy that some years ago it was decided to form a new collection of the 15-17th centuries European art pieces for the interiors of the Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania. This international exhibition is a great opportunity to assess what we have and to compare with historical sets, which decorated palace in the 16th and 17th centuries and fastinated travellers and guests,’ argued Mr Dolinskas.

The patron of the international exhibition, Prime Minister of the Republic of Lithuania Dr Algirdas Butkevicius highlighted that various historical exhibits remind us of close ties with other European nations and welcomed cultural mission of the National Museum – Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania.

‘I have no doubt that this unique exhibition of tapestries from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance period will enjoy the same success. These large-scale works of textile art, which were part of a distinguished cultural tradition in Europe that was also fostered by the rulers of Lithuania, are being exhibited in Vilnius. They will serve as a reminder of the country‘s history, recalling the state‘s rich traditions and its longstanding ties with centres of culture and art in Europe,’  he said.

Most of the early tapestries presented in Lithuania came from the FRANSES Tapestry Archive (London, United Kingdom) and the collection of Nathan Levi (Florence, Italy). Simon Franses and Nathan Levi, both famous collectors, researchers and antique specialists, have selected the tapestries for this exhibition in Vilnius. In the opening event they rejoiced that exhibition was organized in record time – less than ten months.

‘We couldn‘t miss the opportunity to exhibit tapestries in this wonderful historical space. Although all these hanging tapestries came from abroad, now it is known that Lithuania contributed to the textile and tapestry industry exporting invaluable dark red paint from cochineal insects,’ Mr Franses said.

According to him, paint was exported in the 15th and beginning of 16th centuries and there are no doubts that one exhibited panel of Gothic tapestry with equestrian figure was made using this kind of paint. This has been recently proved by scientific research.

Mr Levi was proud of the Museum`s team, which in short time professionally installed exhibition, made excellent lightening system, and information publications.

Prof Ieva Kuiziniene, exhibition consultant, emphasized not only artistic, but also material value of the ancient tapestries. She rejoiced at the chance of imagining how the Palace halls may have looked in times of the Grand Duke of Lithuania and King of Poland Sigismund Augustus. According to her, the Medici Pope Leo X for tapestries made by Raphael‘s cartoons paid several times more than for Michelangelo, who painted Sistine Chapel.

For assistance in the preparation of the exhibition organizers expressed gratitude for the Museum patron – „BTA Insurance Company“ SE branch in Lithuania. In the opening of exhibition Mr Vaidas Labanauskas, „BTA Insurance Company“ SE branch in Lithuania deputy director noted that the nation can be strong only by keeping alive memory of her history.

‘This is the job that the Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania is doing. Therefore we agreed to support the idea of exhibition. We believe that by insuring this unique collection, we indirectly contribute to the perpetuation of the history and provide it available to all Lithuanians and our country visitors,’  he said.

Exhibition organizers expressed hope that generous patrons in Lithuania might acquire tapestries from the exibition and donate them to the Palace or other Lithuanian Museum, or simply decorate their office or other space. This would enrich the national collection of early European textile art.

The international exhibition ‘Medieval and Renaissance Tapestry in Europe. History Woven in Threads’ in the National Museum – Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania was opened on the 17th of September 2014 and will continue three months, till the 14th of December. All museum visitors who will purchase ticket to the museum can visit museum permanent expositions and this international exhibition as well.

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Published:: 2014-10-08 09:26
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