This interface was developed as part of a collaborative exhibition of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine and the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at the University of Oregon and funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the Coby Foundation.
The Barberini Life of Christ tapestries, produced in Rome between 1644 and 1656, are among the greatest treasures in the collection of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. Using a grandiloquent style to express political and spiritual messages, they are truly “woven monuments” of the Roman baroque.
In twelve scenes, the Life of Christ series lays out the central motifs of the Christian faith, from the Virgin Birth to the Resurrection. The tapestries were commissioned by Cardinal Francesco Barberini, nephew of Pope Urban VIII and one of the trendsetting cultural figures of his day. The designer, Giovanni Francesco Romanelli, was a leading figure of “baroque classicism,” who painted canvases and frescoes for princes, cardinals, kings and queens. The weavers translated his ideas into textile at the cardinal’s own private tapestry manufactory, one of only two manufactories south of the Alps.
The tapestries provide a window onto the world of baroque Rome. In the mid-seventeenth century when they were produced, the city was the greatest international art center in the world. Competition fueled the patronage of art as the great papal and noble families vied with each other for status. Meanwhile the Catholic church’s competition with rising Protestantism lent an urgency to Rome’s claims to be the center of the world and a sort of ideal city; great art and architecture were encouraged as they reinforced these claims while also enhancing religious experience. The Barberini tapestries are a perfect example of the work art was called upon to do, aggrandizing the dynasty, expressing the splendor of Rome, and stirring the emotions of the faithful.
Explore the panels of the series by clicking on one and zooming in to investigate selected details. The explanations will provide insight into the Life of Christ, the world of Barberini Rome, and the high baroque moment in art.
Application developed by the Location Lab of the University of Oregon's GIS & Mapping Team with photography by John Bigelow Taylor and Dianne Dubler and content by James Harper and Marlene Eidelheit. February 2017. Copyright Cathedral of St. John the Divine and the University of Oregon, 2017.