Sat, January 12, 2019
Gloria Williams Sanders, Curator, Norton Simon Museum
Virgil’s tale of Dido and Aeneas, from books 1 and 4 of the Aeneid, tells of the Queen of Carthage, a complex figure noted for her strength and character. She meets the shipwrecked Aeneas and the two fall in love, a union that could not survive Aeneas’s destiny to leave Carthage and found Rome. This tragic love story found fertile ground in the medium of tapestry, and Giovanni Francesco Romanelli designed what is perhaps the most famous suite to retell it. In the context of 17th-century Europe, the figure of Dido became a paradigm for dutiful leadership and the perils that accompanied it, especially with regard to female rulers. This lecture considers the popularity of the Romanelli-designed tapestries and how wealthy aristocrats acquired them as a means to message their authority. New discoveries about the history of the Museum’s Death of Dido tapestry and the suite to which it belonged will be presented for the first time.