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The Tapestries

The reception rooms of Palazzo Koch contain a number of antique tapestries. There are sixteen pieces in all, produced by various French and Flemish workshops, providing a substantial sample of European production in the 16th and 17th centuries. Eleven of the tapestries, which the Bank of Italy purchased in 1930, come from the prestigious Turin collection that the industrialist Renato Gualino built up with the help of the great art historian Lionello Venturi.
The two oldest tapestries, dated to the last quarter of the 16th century, depict Abraham and  Melchizedek and David and Abigail. Although the absence of a signature or initial has made it impossible for the experts to identify the designers or weavers, the works are typical of late 16th-century Flemish production, known for greatly simplifying  the contrasts between dark and light.
Of exceptional quality are the three tapestries illustrating episodes from the Stories of Diana, part of a famous series produced around 1625 by the workshops of the Grande Galerie du Louvre. The manufactory was set up by Henri IV and placed under the direction of the talented Flemish weavers Franz von Planken and Marc Coomans, who with great technical skill transposed the cartoons made by the court painter Toussaint Dubreuil. The cycle of Diana is based on Book VI of Ovid’s Metamorphoses and originally consisted of ten pieces. It was so successful that it was replicated several times during the 17th century and sets identical to the three owned by the Bank of Italy can be found in Paris, Madrid, Vienna and Edinburgh.
There are also six 18th-century French tapestries depicting Events in the Life of Alexander the Great, made by an unidentified provincial workshop and replicating the finer works produced by the Paris Gobelins manufactory. The Gobelins tapestries were based on the large-scale paintings executed by Charles Le Brun for Louis XIV, now on display in the Louvre. The episodes, which were produced as tapestries at least eight times by the royal workshops, were generally divided into three parts, making a total of eleven pieces.
Other noteworthy tapestries include the Gathering of Manna in the style of Rubens. It replicates, with only a few variations, one of the subjects of the famous series Triumph of the Eucharist, which the Archduchess Isabella Chiara Eugenia commissioned in 1628 from the Brussels workshop of Jan Raes and Jacob Geubels. The original,  woven from sketches and cartoons by Pieter Paul Rubens, is now in the Convent of Las Descalzas Reales in Madrid.

Alessandro Zuccari