In Genoa, the art of tapestry was at its peak in the centuries spanning the Renaissance, mainly thanks to the Maritime Republic of Genoa’s close economic ties with Flanders, the area in which the tapestries were woven.
When Emperor Charles V visited it (1533), the Villa del Principe was already brimming with cloths and tapestries.
Today the Villa del Principe museum houses three tapestry cycles, dating back to the 15th and 16th centuries, a total of eleven wonders of the European Renaissance.
Alexander the Great Tapestries
The two panels kept in the Salone dei Giganti (Giants Hall), depicting the History of Alexander the Great are considered by experts to be among the most important tapestries of the 15th century. Woven with threads of gold, silver, silk and wool, they were made in around 1460 in Tournai, in the Duchy of Burgundy, which at the time was one of the most dynamic states in Europe. The two tapestries measure just under forty square metres each, and depict various episodes from the life and legend of Alexander the Great, considered by the Dukes of Burgundy to be a model of political and moral virtue, a fair and heroic sovereign and the hero of fabled adventures.
The Tapestries of the Months
The complete series of the “Months”, a contemporary replica of a cycle made in Brussels in around 1525, consisted of twelve tapestries and appears in the inventory of Andrea Doria’s estate. After some losses, today the Doria collection holds three pieces from the series, depicting January, February and August. Each of the panels has a central round, inside which is the divinity associated in mythological tradition with the month represented. A series of mainly agricultural activities are described around it, linked to the time of year portrayed.
The Battle of Lepanto Tapestries
This series of six panels and two partitions was commissioned by nephew and successor to Andrea, Giovanni Andrea I, who participated in the Battle of Lepanto, the most significant military event of the 16th century.
In May 1571 Pope Pius V formed the Holy League, in which the Papacy joined forces with Spain, Venice and its rival Genoa, in climate of crusade against the infidels. The Christian victory at the Battle of Lepanto marked a major success for the League, interrupting the decade-long Turkish domination of the Mediterranean.
For the tapestries, kept in the Salone del Naufragio (Shipwreck Hall) in the Villa del Principe, Doria entrusted the preparatory drawings to Lazzaro Calvi, who created the central scenes, and to Luca Cambiaso, who worked on the framing and the allegorical figures. The tapestries were woven in Brussels and sent to Genoa in 1591. The sequence of the panels depicts various stages in the battle, from the departure of the Christian fleet to the conclusion of the clash and the return of the fleet to Corfu.