This lecture introduces the history of Flemish tapestry weaving, arguably the most celebrated art production in early modern Europe. Many of the most prestigious series of large pictorial textiles were produced in collaboration with different weavers sharing the work and associate costs. This interesting phenomenon led to a new type of research focusing on the socio-economic relationships. MapTap, an ongoing research project developed by Professor Koenraad Brosens, studies the interplay between social structure and dynamics on the one hand, and artistic developments in Flemish tapestry of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries on the other.
By developing a case study that zooms in on two mid-17th century Brussels tapestries, we will catch a glimpse of the complex socio-economic reality behind the medium, and find that “network(s) of cooperative links among participants” (Becker, Art Worlds, 1982) underpinned, fuelled and steered the tapestry industry. We will then address the question emerging from this observation: How can we reconstruct and study these networks properly? What would be a fitting methodology, technique or tool?
Koenraad Brosens is Research Professor in the History of Art Department at KU Leuven where he teaches European Tapestry, Art and Economics, Costume and Fashion and 19th-Century European Art. As a Research and Teaching Assistant at KU Leuven (1998-2003) and a Postdoctoral Fellow of the Flemish Fund for Scientific Research-Belgium (FWO Vlaanderen) (2003-2009), he focused on entrepreneurial strategies devised by early modern European tapestry producers. Professor Brosens has published widely on 17th and 18th century Flemish and French tapestry. His bibliography includes A contextual study of Brussels tapestry, 1670–1770, The dye works and tapestry workshop of Urbanus Leyniers,1674–1747 (2004), European Tapestries in The Art Institute of Chicago (2008), Rubens: The Constantine Series (Corpus Rubenianum Ludwig Burchard, XIII) (2011), and several articles in peer-reviewed journals. He is now working on a book on painting and tapestry in 18th-century Brussels.