BEYOND SPRING CLEANING: NEW YORK CATHEDRAL’S TAPESTRIES GET 16 YEARS OF HIGH-LEVEL GROOMING
new york» The Cathedral of St. John the Divine just spent 16 years cleaning and conserving its rare wall hangings.
Now the historic house of worship is inviting the public to enjoy the fruits of its labor — “The Barberini Tapestries, Scenes from the Life of Christ,” which once graced the Vatican and European palaces. They were designed by baroque master Giovanni Francesco Romanelli; created by weavers for Francesco Barberini, the nephew of Pope Urban VIII, from 1644 to 1656; and donated to the cathedral in 1891.
Centuries ago, tapestries were appreciated not only for their beauty but also for being a buffer against chilly palace walls.
The labor-intensive process used by the Gothic cathedral’s textile conservation laboratory used dental probes, tweezers, a vacuum with microsuction attachments and a special 20-by-16-foot bathtub. In addition to removing the standard dust and dirt, the massive undertaking included work on tapestries that suffered smoke and water damage during a 2001 fire.
Recently preserved tapestries are displayed in an exhibit at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York.