Tapestries, Monet, and Escher, oh my! Part 1

This is part 1 of 2 on my recent adventure to Boston to see the art museums with my mom… and to indulge in the most delicious pastries I’ve ever had.  Seriously.

My mum has a favorite place to go in Boston.  She’s seen it grow and change and become increasingly popular for tourists and the city’s residents since she was just a young college student.  She has some great memories of this magical place, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, and she brought me there a couple years ago to see one of her favorite rooms, which is filled with tapestries!

But on that trip, the room was closed for ceiling repairs!  I was able to enjoy some of the other tapestries in the stairwells and hallways, and so I left feeling like the trip was still a success.  And I knew I would come back to see just how magical these other mysterious tapestries are.

So a couple of weeks ago, we went back down to Boston, and I made sure I called the museum a few days before just to check that all of the tapestries were hanging!  The Gardner is bustling at opening time these days.  School trips, tourists, and residents are drawn to the serene oasis that is this beautiful Italian style villa just off the subway line.  Mum can remember walking through the central courtyard (these days it’s closed off) and seldom seeing another soul as she meandered through the many rooms filled with treasures.  Today we wiggle past the other visitors and make a bee line for the second floor.  Not only are we in Boston to see the tapestries, we’re also planning on heading over to the Museum of Fine Arts for the M. C. Escher exhibit and to a little bakery up in Beacon Hill, all before catching the 5:15 bus back to New Hampshire.

Going to the tapestry rooms on the second floor was a great idea, as the other early birds are still mingling in the courtyard and lower galleries.  The first tapestry room is large and lavish, and filled with various arrangements of seating (which fyi, you’re not allowed to put your bum on).  The tapestries here, which I remarkably forgot to photograph 😦 depict various garden scenes.  The colors have faded to mostly warm blues, greens, and pale yellows, which coordinated perfectly with the upholstered furniture.

The second room was even grander than the first, and the tapestries even more remarkable. Thankfully I photographed these tapestries!  The room reminded me of the old taverns you see in movies, with its dark wood and post-and-beam ceilings, and a fireplace the size of a Chevy van.  It has the feeling of grandeur, an excited expectancy of visitors and entertainment, and also a quiet comfort.  Mum remembers coming to this room for musical performances in the evenings, sitting in the warm ethereal glow of the medieval candelabras as the music enchanted a mesmerized audience.  The museum still puts on these performances, and I hope to experience one someday!

And I’m so glad I returned just to see these tapestries, for they are gigantic, full of exquisite details, and a true feast for the eyes!  My photography skills can’t do them justice, so hopefully you can see them for yourself someday.  I did get a few great detail shots and I also tried to capture the scale of these large pieces.  I didn’t take notes on names or workshops, but I do know they were made in Belgium… or is it Brussels?  Or is Brussels in Belgium?  Well, guess I need to go back!

Again, apologies for my terrible note taking!  I mostly regret it because now I have nothing to go off of but my own photos…

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with chairs for scale…

Obviously there will be more trips back in my future…

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So much detail and beautiful, long hachure lines…

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Detail of women’s dress from above.  I can’t even imagine weaving this.  First there is the pattern of the brocade fabric to produce, and second is trying to capture the sheen of the fabric with hachure! This would be quite the test of patience… and eye sight!

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I love this scene, especially the castle just barely visible in the upper right.  And just look at those elegant gowns and hairdos! It’s easy to forget these are tapestries…

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The large borders of irises and lily of the valley unify the weavings in this series…

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The hunting scene…

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My mom noted how uneven the eyes are in this weaving, and how difficult it must be to create symmetry like what we see in a face.  She encouraged me to photograph this to remind myself that even master weavers had difficulties with capturing symmetry…

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This gorgeous tapestry, woven at a very fine sett, hangs above the doorway, and is really hard to photograph! But even from this view you can get an idea of all of the tiny details…

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My mum, looking out over the courtyard…

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You have to look everywhere around here. Some of the neatest things are above your head! And pretty much everything, from the floor tiles to the windows to the paint colors were purchased by Isabella and brought over from Europe.

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Isabella’s collection even includes this lovely Botticelli…

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overlooking the courtyard…

That’s all for part 1. Stay tuned for part 2 where I’ll show you some of the Monets’, Eschers’, and random statues we viewed at the Museum of Fine Arts.  Until then, keep creating!

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