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The Loves of Mercury and Herse. A Tapestry Series by Willem de Pannemaker

Madrid 6/1/2010 - 9/26/2010

The exhibition reconstructs the iconographic sequence of Ovid’s tale of the loves of Mercury and Herse, reuniting the eight tapestries on this story made by Pannemaker. The panels are now divided between the private collection of the Fundación Casa Ducal de Medinaceli, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and the Museo del Prado, all of which own two tapestries each, while the remaining two are in the private collections of the Casa de Alba and the Dukes of Cardona.

As recent research undertaken for the purposes of this exhibition has revealed, from 1603 onwards this series of The Wedding of Mercury, woven by Willem de Pannemaker – tapestry-maker and supplier to the royal courts of the Flemish Renaissance – was in the collection of Francisco de Sandoval y Rojas, 1st Duke of Lerma and favourite of Philip III. Pannemaker’s allegorical/mythological tapestries, whose compositions are heavily indebted to those of Raphael, reveal the Duke’s particular preference for tapestry and for Flemish and Italian art, a taste also manifested in the rest of his collection. With this in mind, the exhibition will also include the Portrait of the Duke of Lerma on Horseback by Rubens, also of 1603.

Ovid’s story of love and jealousy, the main protagonists of which are Mercury, Herse and Aglauros, can be followed in the eight panels of this tapestry series. Mercury’s descent to earth, his encounter with Aglauros, Herse and Pandrosos (daughters of Cecrops, King of Attica), the seduction of Herse, and the transformation or metamorphosis of Aglauros, brought about by Mercury, are the key episodes in these panels. They are framed by splendid borders designed for the tapestry series of The Acts of the Apostles, which was based on designs by Raphael and made for the Sistine Chapel.

Willem de Pannemaker was active from 1535 to 1581. Born into the leading family of tapestry weavers in Brussels, Pannemaker was the most celebrated tapestry-maker of the Flemish Renaissance. He worked for the aristocracy and the principal European courts of the 16th century, supplying those of Charles I of Spain (the Emperor Charles V of Germany) and his son Philip II with magnificent tapestries.

Curators:
Concha Herrero Carretero, Curator of Tapestries, Patrimonio Nacional, and Leticia Azcue Brea, Chief Curator of Sculpture and Decorative Arts, Museo Nacional del Prado

Access

Room C. Jerónimos Building

Opening time

Tuesdays to Sundays, from 9am to 8pm.

In special collaboration with:
Fundación Casa Ducal de Medinaceli

Multimedia

Exhibition

The Mercury and Herse Series. Tapestries woven with gold

The Mercury and Herse Series. Tapestries woven with gold
Herse’s nuptial Chamber. 
Manufactured by Willem de Pannemaker
Gold, silver, silk and wool thread, 437 x 541 cm
Brussels, ca.1570
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art

The exhibition reunites the eight tapestries that comprise the only known example of this set. They were woven in the second half of the 16th century with large amounts of gold and silver thread in order to emphasise the sense of relief and the luminosity and splendour of the eight panels. The first tapestry in the series includes the date of 1570.

In addition to being a symbol of wealth and power, the enormous cost of such a commission makes it possible to describe this series as nothing less than a jewel, in the sense of being both a great work of art and a costly treasure. The high value placed on the series in the inventories of its original owners, the dukes of Lerma, and again in those of the Medinaceli family, to whom it passed by inheritance in 1673, confirm this. The series remained together in the Casa Medinaceli until it was broken up in 1909.

The intensity and brilliance of the colouring, the richness and abundance of the gold and silver thread, the classical and Renaissance style of the scenes, rigorous use of geometrical perspective, rich, elaborate ornamentation, Flemish emphasis on detail in the accessories and landscape, and the humanistic treatment of both the male and female figures all make The Wedding of Mercury one of the most beautiful tapestry series of the entire 16th century, only comparable with tapestries from the royal Habsburg collection.

Most of the panels underwent conservation treatment prior to the exhibition with the aim of displaying them in the finest condition possible. In some cases this work was undertaken at the Fundación Real Fábrica de Tapices, Madrid, under the direction of Ana Schöbel, head of the Fundación’s Textile Conservation Studio, and supervised by the Museo del Prado’s Restoration Department.

Artworks

1

Mercury enamoured of Herse

Manufactured by Willem de Pannemaker
Gold, silver, silk and wool thread, 444 x 728 cm
Brussels, 1570
Colección Duques de Alba

3

Aglauros detains Mercury

Manufactured by Willem de Pannemaker
Gold, silver, silk and wool thread, 437 x 603 cm
Brussels, ca.1570
Colección Duque de Lerma, depositado en la Casa Ducal de Medinaceli

5

Aglauros corrupted by Envy

Manufactured by Willem de Pannemaker
Gold, silver, silk and wool thread, 440 x 650 cm
Brussels, ca.1570
Colección Duques de Cardona

6

The Dance in Cecrops’ Palace

Manufactured by Willem de Pannemaker
Gold, silver, silk and wool thread, 436 x 607 cm
Brussels, ca.1570
Colección Fundación Casa Ducal de Medinaceli

7

Herse’s nuptial Chamber

Manufactured by Willem de Pannemaker
Gold, silver, silk and wool thread, 437 x 541 cm
Brussels, ca.1570
Metropolitan Museum of Art

8

The Metamorphosis of Aglauros and Mercury’s Departure

Manufactured by Willem de Pannemaker
Gold, silver, silk and wool thread, 450 x 716 cm
Brussels, ca.1570
Metropolitan Museum of Art

10

Four engravings of the loggias of the Vatican

Giovanni Battista Volpato
Etching and burin, 108 x 47.8 cm
1775 – 1776
Museo Nacional del Prado

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