The Bowdoin College Museum of Art will debut three new exhibitions at the end of September. “Hendrick Goltzius: Mythology and Truth” and “Weaving the Myth of Psyche: Baroque Tapestries from the Wadsworth Atheneum” open on September 27, and “Alison de Vere: Psyche and Eros” opens on September 30. The shows, which encompass a range of mediums and time periods, all relate to the ancient myth of Psyche and Cupid, the story of a relationship between a princess and a god.

“[It is] one of the most beautiful love stories ever written,” said the Curator of the Bowdoin College Museum of Art Joachim Homann.  “It has always been recognized as such.”

“Hendrick Goltzius: Mythology and Truth” serves as an antechamber to the other two shows. Prints and a painting by the Dutch printmaker, publisher and painter line the walls. Goltzius, an active artist from the1580s to 1610s, used his art with varying levels of subtlety to comment on the political climate in Holland. At the time, the Dutch were fighting for independence from Spanish Habsburg rule in the Eighty Years War.

“His lines are what everybody’s raving about, his ways of creating depth,” said Homann. 

“People who care about printmaking recognize Goltzius as a master, who has achieved things that other people would not have attempted,” said Homann.

Goltzius’ work is intricate and dense, but with a closer look, one can see the simple details that create the overall effect.

“It’s also equally amazing to just look into the details and understand how they were created just with black lines and white paper,” said Homann.

The idea for the show came in large part from a 2009 donation made (posthumously) by Charles Pendexter, whose collection included many Goltzius prints. These, in addition to pieces loaned from the Princeton Museum of Art in New Jersey and the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester, New Hampshire, come together to form a compelling exhibition.
At the Museum, the smaller room of Goltzius prints transitions into a large space with high ceilings and salmon-colored walls that display “Weaving the Myth of Psyche: Baroque Tapestries from the Wadsworth Atheneum.” These five French tapestries by the Flemish painter and designer Pieter Coecke van Aelst are incredibly rare and extremely valuable.

“I would imagine that it’s the first time in Maine anybody has exhibited a tapestry cycle of that significance,” said Homann. “It is really an opportunity to learn about a medium of art making that has never been featured in a show like this here.”

These works, based on Rafael’s tapestries, which were destroyed during the French Revolution for their provocative—and even pornographic—nature, were the ultimate sign of wealth. Some even include gold and silver thread.

“In the Renaissance and Baroque periods, the most important or most expensive furnishings were actually not paintings but tapestries,” said Homann. “We often forget that because they are so rare.”

Van Aelst’s tapestries have not just made an impact at Bowdoin. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York is featuring his work as well, and Homann is excited to learn from the Met’s show and to add to the understanding of the tapestries at Bowdoin. The curator of the show at the Met, Elizabeth Cleland, will also come to speak at Bowdoin on October 22.

The final new exhibit, “Alison de Vere: Psyche and Eros,” will provide a visual aspect to the story of Cupid and Psyche and help further complement the tapestries in the previous room. The 26-minute animated film from 1994—closely related to “The Golden Ass” by the Roman author Apuleius—was made by de Vere. She is also well-known for helping design the Yellow Submarine film for the Beatles in 1967.

These shows will allow Homann to share some of the Museum’s incredible holdings with the Bowdoin community and beyond. Some smaller pieces from Bowdoin’s permanent collection, including small vases, fragments, and figurines displaying Cupid and Psyche, will also be exhibited.

“Learning about [European art from the 16th and 17th centuries], I find that in the wintertime in Maine to contemplate and unravel the art of Goltzius and to immerse yourself in the tapestries is just one of the best ways of getting through winter,” said Homann.
Homann also believes that these shows may interest local textile artists. They also have particular relevance for art history courses and a new Mediterranean studies cluster funded by the Mellon Foundation.

“I really feel strongly that the Bowdoin community in particular needs to know about the collection and the Goltzius prints and the other donations by Charles Pendexter,” said Homann. 

“[They] are an amazing resource for all of us to discover and enjoy, so I want people to take advantage of that.”

“Hendrick Goltzius: Mythology and Truth” and “Weaving the Myth of Psyche: Baroque Tapestries from the Wadsworth Atheneum” will be shown until early March, and “Alison de Vere: Psyche and Eros” until January 4.

The two main exhibitions will be previewed at the Student Night at the Museum program on Friday, September 26 at 7 p.m.