Paris Tapestries

In addition to the millefiori tapestries, the six displayed in this room are also due to a member of the Gonzaga family. In fact, they were commissioned by the owner of the Museum, the venerable bishop Francesco, who had them made in Paris while he was there as papal nuncio and, on his return to Mantua, placed them in the cathedral to complete the extensive figurative cycle that he entrusted to various artists, including Teodoro Ghisi, Ippolito Andreasi and Antonio Maria Viani.

The cycle was intended to translate into images the Catechism of the Council of Trent, of which the six tapestries illustrate the chapter on Easter: Easter announced, with the episode of the Transfiguration; Easter realised, with the unbelieving Thomas touching the body of the Risen Lord; Easter completed, with the Ascension of Jesus into heaven; the fruits of Easter, with the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and, in the two smaller tapestries, a series of saints.

The saints chosen to represent all the beneficiaries of Easter are the two apostles Peter and Paul, Anselm, patron saint of the city and diocese, Pope Celestine, whose remains were venerated in the cathedral, and four Franciscans (Bernardine of Siena, Diego of Alcalà, Francis of Assisi and Anthony of Padua), of the Order of which Bishop Francis had been Minister General. He himself is depicted in the Ascension scene, with his age indication allowing the tapestries to be dated to 1598. The frames are also valuable, with monochrome scenes depicting episodes related to the major scenes, as well as the commissioner's coats of arms and, on the underside, his enterprise: an altar on which the Mystic Lamb is immolated, with the initials FFG (which stands for Frate Francesco Gonzaga) and the motto Soli Deo honor et gloria, 'To God alone the honour and glory'.

The recent identification of some preparatory drawings by Stefano L'Occaso has made it possible to assign the invention of the tapestries to the Parisian Henri Lerambert, Henry IV's court painter during the years when Bishop Francesco was in Paris. On his return to Mantua, he donated them to the cathedral, placing them in the apse. Later, the four majors were moved to the pillars of the dome, as evidenced by Vindizio Nodari Pesenti's painting of Bishop Domenico Menna's Pontifical Mass on 18 March 1947.

Maurice Dubout (?): 'The Transfiguration', detail from tapestry, c. 1598.

Spesa oggetto del contributo nell'ambito del bando PNRR, Missione 1 – Digitalizzazione, innovazione, competitività e cultura, Componente 3 – Cultura 4.0 (M1C3), Misura 1 “Patrimonio culturale per la prossima generazione”, Investimento 1.2: “Rimozione delle barriere fisiche e cognitive in musei, biblioteche e archivi per consentire un più ampio accesso e partecipazione alla cultura” finanziato dall’Unione europea – NextGenerationEU“ – CUP: C64H22001410004.