New Pilot Program at FIA Serves the Visually Impaired

Simon Vouet (designer)
French 1590-1649
Rinaldo Carried to Armida’s Enchanted Chariot
wool and silk (modern cotton lining), ca.1633
177 x 171 inches
Gift of Viola E. Bray, 2005.124.5

The education department at the Flint Institute of Arts is launching a pilot program to better serve the visually impaired.

Visitors can now use high-contrast graphics and tactile panels to experience the Rinaldo and Armida tapestries located in the Bray Renaissance Gallery. The graphics are available upon request at Visitor Services in the FIA lobby.

The high-contrast graphics make it easy to see what’s happening in the tapestries, as bright colors are placed on a black background. On the other hand, the tactile panels are composed of a variety of fabric materials that visitors can feel and touch.

The tapestries tell the story of Rinaldo and Armida from Tarquato Tasso’s Gerusalemme Liberata (Jerusalem Delivered), published in 1581. The literary work is an epic poem that commemorates and mythologizes the first crusade of 1095-1099 when Christian knights, led by Godfry de Bouillon (c.1058-1100), relieved Jerusalem from Saracen control.

Loosely based on historical fact, it is a fictionalized account composed in the chivalric tradition that grappled with the conflicting demands of duty versus desire. The entire poem is composed of twenty long cantos or chapters, of which the Story of Rinaldo and Armida is only part, comprising the last six divisions.

The original set of 10 tapestries were made in Paris in the Foubourg Saint-Germain tapestry workshop on the rue de la Chaise, which was active from 1633 to 1667/8. They were woven in wool and silk around 1633-1637 under the  direction of Raphael de la Planche, after designs painted by Simon Vouet, the premier peintre du roi, or first painter to the king.

Composed of a variety of fabric materials, these tactile panels were designed for the Rinaldo and Armida tapestries in the Viola E. Bray Renaissance Gallery. They are available upon request at Visitor Services and are designed to better serve the visually impaired.
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