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Cover of Grand Design

Grand Design: Pieter Coecke van Aelst and Renaissance Tapestry

Cleland, Elizabeth A. H. ed., with Maryan W. Ainsworth, Stijn Alsteens, and Nadine M. Orenstein.
412 pages
350 illustrations
AAMC Award for Excellence, Co-First Place Article/Essay category (2014)
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Pieter Coecke van Aelst (1502 – 1550) was renowned throughout Renaissance Europe as a draftsman, painter, and publisher of architectural treatises. The magnificent tapestries he designed were acquired by the wealthiest clients of the day, up to and including rulers such as Emperor Charles V, King Francis I of France, King Henry VIII of England, and Grand Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici of Tuscany. At the same time, Coecke was remarkable not only for the complexity and unparalleled quality of his tapestries, but also for his fluency in various media: this lavishly illustrated volume examines the full range of his work, from tapestry and stained-glass window designs to panel paintings, prints, drawings, and architectural treatises.

Though only forty-eight when he died, Coecke was one of the greatest Netherlandish artists of the sixteenth century. His paintings and drawings, initially wrought in the style of the Antwerp Mannerists, evolved through his enthusiastic response to Italian Renaissance design, and influenced generations of artists in his wake. This comprehensive study explores Coecke’s stylistic development, as well as his substantial contribution to the body of great Renaissance art in Flanders.

Featuring twenty monumental tapestries, along with many of their cartoons and preparatory sketches, plus seven paintings, additional drawings, and printed matter—many of them newly photographed for this volume—Grand Design provides a thorough reappraisal of Coecke’s work, amply justifying the high regard in which Coecke’s work was held and its wide dissemination long after his death.

The Last Supper, Albrecht Dürer  German, Woodcut
The Last Supper, Bernard van Orley  Netherlandish, Wool, silk, silver-gilt thread.
ca. 1525–28
Reigles generales de l'architecture, sur les cincq manieres d'edifices, Sebastiano Serlio  Italian, Printed book with woodcut illustrations
Multiple artists/makers
Buddha Preaching the First Sermon at Sarnath, Black stone, India (Bihar, probably Nalanda)
India (Bihar, probably Nalanda)
11th century
Conversion of St. Paul, Pieter Coecke van Aelst  Netherlandish, Pen and brown ink, light brown wash, heightened with white on brown paper
1538 (?)
Ces Moeurs et fachons de faire de Turcz (Customs and Fashions of the Turks), Pieter Coecke van Aelst  Netherlandish, Woodcuts in a frieze of ten blocks printed on ten sheets
16th century
Gluttony from a set of The Seven Deadly Sins, Pieter Coecke van Aelst  Netherlandish, Wool, silk, silver-gilt thread<br/>19-23 warps per inch, 8-10 per cm., Netherlandish, probably Brussels
Between ca. 1550 and 1560
The Jews Collecting the Twelve Stones from the River Jordan, Pieter Coecke van Aelst  Netherlandish, Pen and brown ink, brush and brown ink, over black chalk, squared for transfer in black chalk
ca. 1535–38
January from a set of The Months of Lucas, Master of the Months of Lucas  Netherlandish, Wool, silk (20-21 warps per inch, 8-9 per cm.), French, Paris
Multiple artists/makers
designed ca. 1535, woven 1732–37
Mercury Changes Aglauros to Stone, from the Story of Mercury and Herse, Giovanni Battista Lodi da Cremona  Italian, Wool, silk and precious metal-wrapped threads (20-22 warps per inch, 8-9 warps per cm.), Netherlandish, Brussels
Multiple artists/makers
designed ca. 1540, woven ca. 1570
Jupiter and Juno: Study for the "Furti di Giove" Tapestries, Perino del Vaga (Pietro Buonaccorsi)  Italian, Pen and dark brown ink with brown and gray wash, highlighted with white gouache
ca. 1532–35

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Cleland, Elizabeth A. H., Iain Buchanan, and Metropolitan Museum of Art, eds. 2014. Grand Design: Pieter Coecke van Aelst and Renaissance Tapestry; [... Publ. in Conjunction with “Grand Design: Pieter Coecke van Aelst and Renaissance Tapestry” on View at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, from October 8, 2014, through January 11, 2015]. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art.