In the early 1620s Peter Paul Rubens designed a series of tapestries celebrating the glory of the Roman Catholic Church. On loan from the Patrimonio Nacional, four of these monumental treasures have traveled from Madrid to L.A. for the exhibition Spectacular Rubens: Triumph of the Eucharist. They are paired with oil sketches from the Prado Museum, which are Rubens’s designs for the compositions. Both the paintings and the tapestries offer a rare spectacle of Baroque compositional might and technical prowess.
Measuring about 16 feet on the vertical side, up to about 25 feet on the horizontal and weighing 150 to 200 pounds each, the 400-year-old wool-and-silk weavings were carefully moved, unrolled, and hung by a team of 20 experts, including Getty preparators, curators, and conservators, as well as a curator from the Patrimonio Nacional. Hardware and pulley rope—along with a careful eye, muscles, and nerves of steel—were needed to painstakingly move the tapestries off their secure rollers and onto the deep blue gallery walls, where they will hang until January 11, 2015.
130,000: Cost in florins to weave a single Rubens tapestry
5,814: Miles traveled from Madrid to L.A.
1,288: Square feet of woven wonder on view
100: Feet of pulley rope needed to hang
90+: Colored wool and silk wefts per inch
44: Wool warps per inch (approximate)
16-24: Artisans needed to create each tapestry
82: Feet of Velcro securing all four tapestries in the show
78: Days on view at the Getty
20: Experts needed to install
8: Days to hang the entire exhibition
2: Pairs of tweezers used by conservators to remove stray fibers
1: Day to install each tapestry
0: Times these tapestries will return to L.A.
Here’s a glimpse into what it took to install just one single tapestry.