Burrell tapestries on display at Kelvingrove

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The Burrell Collection’s building is shut, pending a major refurbishment – but some of its treasures go on show at Kelvingrove from this week.

Spectacular tapestries spanning the medieval, renaissance and Georgian eras (from 1350 to 1725) will be on display at Kelvingrove from now until November.

The exhibition includes two tapestries which have not been on public display since the Glasgow International Exhibition at Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum in 1901.

Over a period of 60 years, Sir William Burrell (1861–1958) collected over 200 tapestries, developing an enviable knowledge of their history, design and manufacture.

Today it ranks as one of the most significant collections of tapestries in the world, and includes majestic French and South Netherlandish tapestries commissioned by kings, princes and bishops.

There are also smaller domestic tapestries woven in Germany and England for the emerging wealthy merchant classes.

Remarkable for their outstanding quality, chronological scope, and wide-range of subject matter, many adorned the walls of Sir William’s homes including Hutton Castle in the Scottish Borders.

Others were lent to exhibitions, museums and cathedrals throughout Britain.

One of the most notable works in the exhibition is (pictured) the “Scenes from the Life of John the Baptist: The Baptist preaching to the people, the publicans and the soldiers, circa 1516–21”, which was formerly displayed in the vestibule at Hutton Castle.

Part of a set of three made for Church of St John the Baptist in Angers, France, the tapestries then passed to Angers Cathedral, where two panels can be seen today.

The third panel was cut in two, with one half acquired by Sir William and the second recently acquired by the French Ministry of Culture.

Sir Angus Grossart, chairman of Burrell Renaissance said: “The collection of medieval and renaissance tapestries in the Burrell is one of the greatest in the world.

“This exhibition demonstrates the highly ambitious standards and achievement of a remarkable collector and provides a unique opportunity to see works rarely on view.

“Along with the publication of the forthcoming tapestry catalogue, it demonstrates that the quality of the Burrell Collection ranks among the finest international institutions.”

The Burrell Tapestries Research Project concludes next month with the publication of the first ever complete catalogue, fully illustrated with stunning new photographs of all the tapestries from the Burrell.

The catalogue has been developed in collaboration with Dr Elizabeth Cleland of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York and Dr Lorraine Karafel of Parsons School of Design, New York, with contributions from expert scholars exploring how, where, when and why these tapestries were made.

Throughout the Burrell’s refurbishment, Burrell at Kelvingrove will showcase a series of changing displays, giving visitors continued access to treasures from the Burrell Collection.

The display space will also be used to prototype designs and display methods for the refurbished museum – from story displays for artworks, and prototyping of digital user experiences, to the design of visitor facilities.