Sculpture and the applied arts have been important to CODART from its inception. Although our organization is open to curators in all disciplines, it is curators of the “flat arts” who most often join CODART. Since the majority of our members concentrate mainly on paintings, drawings and prints, it stands to reason that our congresses and other activities mostly focus on those disciplines. This means that the applied arts and sculpture do not always receive the notice they deserve from CODART, and this could easily turn into a vicious circle, for why would curators in these fields want to join an organization that pays them scant attention?
Tapestries in the KHM Vienna
Since the Middle Ages, sets of tapestries – the products of painstaking handiwork involving wool, silk and metal threads – have served to radiate stately grandeur and political aspirations. Owing to their costliness, such wall hangings remained the preserve of the elite, mostly from aristocratic and clerical circles. Signifying dignity and ennoblement, they were temporarily put on display on festive or ceremonial occasions to decorate interiors and sometimes also public spaces.
The over seven hundred tapestries preserved in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna constitute one of the largest and most important collections of its kind in the world and bear eloquent witness to the splendor once associated with this textile medium.
Sculptors in the Baltic
Starting in the second half of the sixteenth century, a sizeable group of artists from the Low Countries, mostly from the Southern Netherlands, moved abroad. Italy was a popular destination, of course, but many sculptors traveled to countries situated on the Baltic Sea, probably with no thought of ever returning home. The Eighty Years’ War had caused political and religious turmoil, and there were few prospects for employment. The Baltic region was a new and very attractive destination for artists, because for centuries there had been little competition. Moreover, the signing of the religious Peace of Augsburg in 1555 led to greater political stability within the Holy Roman Empire, and the ensuing economic prosperity meant that more attention and money was given to the arts.READ ON
Interview Alastair Laing
Alastair Laing (1944) recently retired as Curator of Pictures and Sculpture at the National Trust after a career of almost twenty-seven years devoted to the art preserved in historic houses. Laing personifies the title of his much-admired exhibition In Trust for the Nation, held at the National Gallery, London in 1995-96. As a curator at the National Trust, he looked after the marvelous collections of paintings in around 120 historic houses with great knowledge and care. It has only been since the mid-twentieth century that the National Trust (founded in 1895) and others have gradually come to acknowledge its growing responsibilities for the art collections of country houses, which makes it clear how important the work of Laing – and that of his predecessor St John Gore (curator from 1956 to 1986) and his successor David Taylor – has been and continues to be. The National Trust’s collection of paintings is second only to the Royal Collection in number and quality.READ ON
Perhaps less well known, but no less wondrous, are the eight hundred works of European art that preceded the Massacre of the Innocents but inspired its acquisition. Gothic ivory diptychs and freestanding sculptures of the Virgin and Child, Baroque ivory tankards and relief carvings, as well as British portrait miniatures and other objects, all provoke the question: How were these made? Perhaps no group of works prompts this question more than the Thomson Collection's ten prayer beads and two miniature devotional altarpieces, the largest collection of sixteenth-century devotional miniature carvings in the world. Eight of the prayer beads and the two altarpieces are Northern in origin and were possibly carved in Antwerp or another Brabantine city, while two of the beads were most likely carved in Germany.READ ON
The Art Museum of Estonia’s holdings of medieval and early-modern art are exhibited in the Niguliste Museum, housed in the former St. Nicholas’ Church. It is one of the most extensive and significant collections of ecclesiastical art of that period in the Baltic countries. Medieval altarpieces and wooden sculptures from northern Germany and the Low Countries form the core of the Niguliste’s collection. The Niguliste Museum is best known in northern Europe for two magnificent and monumental works by Lübeck masters of the late medieval period. The first is Danse Macabre, a painting executed in the workshop of Bernt Notke at the end of the fifteenth century; the second is the retable of the high altar of St. Nicholas’ Church, which originated in the workshop of Hermen Rode in 1478-81.READ ON
Curator in the spotlight
Ingrid De Meûter
In 1977 I completed my studies in art history at the University of Ghent. It was Professor R.A. D’Hulst who suggested that I write my thesis on a subject connected with tapestries, and this proved to be a harbinger of my later career. Not only was Professor D’Hulst an expert on the oeuvre of Rubens and other seventeenth-century painters of the Antwerp school, but he had also written one of the seminal works on the art of tapestry-making: Vlaamse wandtapijten van de XIVde tot de XVIIIde eeuw (Flemish Tapestries of the Fourteenth to the Eighteenth Centuries), published in 1965. In his view there was still a lot of research material to be unearthed in this field, and he was certainly right. Ever since then, my studies have concentrated mainly on Flemish tapestries of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.READ ON
Interview Thomas Leysen
Thomas Leysen studied law at the Catholic University of Leuven (Belgium) and went on to build an impressive career in the world of business. For years he served as CEO of Umicore and also acted as chairman of the Federation of Belgian Enterprises (VBO). In 2011 he was named chairman of the board of the KBC group in Brussels. He also holds numerous executive positions in the cultural world, serving, for example, as chairman of the Rubenianum Fonds and as a member of the board of the Cultural Heritage Fund of the King Baudouin Foundation and of the European Friends of Versailles. In addition, Thomas Leysen is chairman of the Friends of CODART Foundation, in which capacity he has succeeded in enlisting new Patrons.READ ON
CODARTfocus in Utrecht
To mark the exhibition Surviving the Iconoclasm, a CODARTfocus meeting was held on 28 January, the second in cooperation with the Contact Group Early Netherlandish Art. More than fifty people from the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, France and Norway took part in this symposium. The program naturally included an enlightening tour of the exhibition, during which various experts clarified selected pieces and there was much discussion about technique, style and attribution. The lectures dealt with the realization of the exhibition, ongoing research, and proposals for future research projects. Several new insights were also shared with the participants.READ ON