Published: May 14, 2002
MANCHESTER, N.H. – Moviegoers watch knights gallop toward each other with lances at the ready. Fairytale readers imagine princesses leaning from castle towers. Fantasy game players explore battle techniques used five centuries ago. The Renaissance is an age that continues to fascinate modern audiences, but this spring visitors to the Currier Gallery of Art can experience it in person, by coming face to face with the actual art and artifacts of that magical era.
At the Currier, visitors will marvel at “The Visit of the Gypsies,” a 500-year-old tapestry woven long ago to adorn a drafty castle wall. They will feel the powerful gaze of a freshly restored portrait in the museum’s Renaissance gallery. And they will wander through room after room of rare prints created by Northern European masters half a millennium ago — a unique collection owned by New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and at the Currier until June 16.
Five hundred years ago, stone castle walls were cold and drafty. Bands of gypsies roamed the countryside eking out survival with their wits and skills. Both factors conspired to create “The Visit of the Gypsies,” a Franco Flemish tapestry that has been in the collection of the Currier Gallery of Art since before the museum opened in 1929.
The Currier’s treasured tapestry, woven of wool and silk by artists in Tournai, France, spent the past two years at the Textile Conservation Center at the American Textile History Museum in Lowell, Mass. On view at the Currier until 1995, the tapestry — which once graced castle walls — had begun to suffer from years of being on view. Conservators at the center cleaned, restitched and reinforced “The Visit of the Gypsies,” which is once again hanging in the museum’s court. Depicting a humorous tale of theft and intrigue, the tapestry recounts the visit of a band of gypsies to a Renaissance city.
In the Currier’s intimate Renaissance Gallery, adjacent to the tapestry, are several important works, including two paintings that have just returned from restoration. Joos van Cleve’s “Holy Family,” about 1520, features a highly detailed landscape and symbolic still life elements. And Jan Gossaert’s engaging self-portrait from the same era invites the viewer into his world, the world of Sixteenth Century Europe.
In the museum’s West Gallery, Currier visitors will see the actual 500-year-old prints collected by Renaissance-era ancestors. “The Print in the North – The Age of Albrecht Dürer and Lucas van Leyden: Selections from the Metropolitan Museum of Art” showcases the artistic genius of Renaissance artists in Northern Europe, while reflecting the tastes of a public that was able to own art for the first time. Knights and ladies, battle scenes, saints and demons and even some dramatic renderings of the natural and built environment made their way onto paper in startling detail. More than 80 prints are in New Hampshire, on loan from New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, but only through June 16.
Currier docent Marguerite Brockway will lead a Musical Gallery Walk, accompanied by music of the era (musical selections are recorded on tape), on Sunday, June 9, at 1 pm; participants gather in front of the tapestry “The Visit of the Gypsies” and continue into the Renaissance Gallery, focusing on the musical styles of the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries.
The Currier Gallery of Art is at 201 Myrtle Way. Museum hours are Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Sunday, 11 am to 5 pm; Friday, 11 am to 8 pm; Saturday, 10 am to 5 pm. For information, 603-669-6144, extension 108 or visit www.currier.org.
5 Church Hill Road / Newtown, CT 06470
Mon - Fri / 8:00 am - 5:01 pm