Henry VIII and the Art of Majesty

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Tapestries at the Tudor Court

Thomas P. Campbell

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Luxurious, beautiful, and portable, tapestry was the pre-eminent art form of the Tudor court. Henry VIII amassed an unrivaled collection over the course of his reign, and the author weaves the history of this magnificent collection into the life of its owner with an engaging narrative style. Now largely dispersed or destroyed, Henry’s extensive inventory is here reassembled and reveals how, through tapestry, Henry identified himself with historic, religious, and mythological figures, putting England in dialogue—and competition—with the leading courts of Early Modern Europe while promoting his own religious and political agendas at home. Campbell’s original account sheds new light on Tudor political and artistic culture and the court’s response to Renaissance aesthetic ideals. Sumptuously illustrated with newly commissioned photographs, this stunning re-creation of Europe’s greatest tapestry collection challenges the predominantly text-driven histories of the period and offers a fascinating new perspective on the life of Henry VIII.

Thomas P. Campbell is Curator in the Department of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts and Supervising Curator of the Antonio Ratti Textile Center at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. He is the principal author of Tapestry in the Renaissance: Art and Magnificence (2002) and editor of Tapestry in the Baroque: Threads of Splendor (see page 29).

"Gorgeously produced and lavishly illustrated Henry VIII is about as complete a study as one might find on the grandeur of the Tudor Court. As much a history as an art book, this magnificent study belongs on the library shelves of both public and educational institutions. Vastly impressive."—Art Times

"Campbell's absorbing text—like the tapestries he chronicles—is packed with detailed information. . . . [He] sheds light on the status and significance of tapestry and explains how the dispersal and destruction of most of the Tudor collection contributed to its absence in earlier scholarship. More than 300 images provide a gorgeous view of those works that do survive and help to illustrate Campbell's insights into the aesthetics of the medium."—Fiberarts

"A must read for anyone interested in tapestry, patronage studies, and cultural history. . . . [This book] urges university-based art history in Europe and the United States to reconsider and upgrade fundamentally the status of tapestry studies in teaching and research programs. . . . Monumental in its scope and methodology, Campbell's erudite and sumptuously illustrated book must be regarded as a cornerstone in the debate on European courtly art and culture of the late medieval and Renaissance periods."—Koenraad Brosens, CAA Reviews

"Sumptuously illustrated. . . . Devoting careful study, based on rich archival documentation as well as particular objects of study to this particular art form—the largest and most expensive of its era—Campbell restores tapestry to its rightful place in princely culture. . . . This book serves as a kind of historical primer of the art form for the entire period of the fifteenth and early sixteenth century. . . . Thomas Campbell has elucidated an entire environment of visual display achieved through tapestries—for royal ideology, for pictorial magnificence, and for fitting palace decoration."—Larry Silver, Historians of Netherlandish Art

“This book will be the definitive study of Henry VIII’s tapestries and quite the best book to date on Tudor court imagery. It’s also a fascinating detective story, tracking all those pieces and fragments around the world. Not only does it fill the major gap (Henry’s tapestry collection being the biggest and the most important artistic medium) but the chronological approach enables Campbell to explore the close relationships between royal policy, choice of theme/image and wider cultural, Renaissance taste. The author discusses these relationships each on their own terms, before linking and comparing, and what a difference it makes! The book is tantamount to a new history of the reign through the chief visual art. —John Guy, Professor of History at the University of Cambridge and author of Tudor England

"This thoroughly researched study provides a welcome infusion of scholarly rigor into a field that has suffered from a bias toward fine arts at the expense of decorative arts. An important contribution to scholarship, it is among the best in its genre. . . . Essential."—Choice

"Henry VIII and the Art of Majesty: Tapestries at the Tudor Court presents a full critical commentary and analysis of this unique textile treasure. Campbell has researched this collection for many years, discovering new documents along the way, and has identified its extant weavings. In previous publications he succeeded in connecting several major series of surviving tapestries to Henry's collection or in partly reconstructing what others looked like. All this material is gathered together in this book but is described in a much larger context."—Guy Delmarcel, Art Bulletin 

Winner of the 2008 Bainton Prize in History given by the Sixteenth Century Society and Conference.

Selected by Choice magazine as an Outstanding Academic Title from 2008.

Winner of the 2008 Historians of British Art Book Award in the Single-Author, Pre 1800 category.

Winner of the 2008 William M.B. Berger Prize for British Art History sponsored by the Berger Collection Educational Trust and The British Art Journal
ISBN: 9780300122343
Publication Date: September 15, 2007
Publishing Partner: Published for the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art
440 pages, 8 1/2 x 11
114 b/w + 206 color illus.

Tom Henry and David Ekserdjian; With contributions by Thoma

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