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Exhibit Opens at Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library

Posted: Aug 15, 2018

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Renaissance painting inspires student creativity


For up-to-date information regarding performances, visit the Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library gallery webpage.


A new exhibit featuring the painting of an elaborate Renaissance street pageant is the centerpiece of a yearlong celebration of the performing arts at the University of Maryland.

High-resolution scans of the painting, displayed at the Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library and provided by the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, England, show in minute detail a Brussels street procession of the 17th century. The procession, or street pageant, celebrates Archduchess Isabella, then ruler of the Spanish Netherlands.

Because the procession depicts scores of costumed performers and 10 highly decorated pageant wagons featuring scenes from history, religion, and mythology, this stunning painting— Triumph of Isabella—has become an important historical document for art and theatre historians.

Faculty and graduate students from the university’s School of Theatre, Dance, & Performance Studies have recreated items depicted in the painting to be part of the exhibition, including a scale model of an elaborate ship-wagon and a fanciful devil mask made of lacquered leather. In September, students will stage performances based on the painting; a scholarly symposium is in the works for 2019.

“The exhibition focuses on the ways in which artist-scholars use the resources of libraries and museums to enrich their understanding of performance,” says librarian Drew Barker, who curated the exhibit.  “Furthermore, learning about the political landscape, the craft guilds, and the stagecraft of such an elaborate procession helps us understand what shaped the culture of that time.”

A timeline and floor map, along with books from the library collections, provide additional context for exhibition viewers. Painter Denis Van Alsloot (c. 1568 - c.1626) created The Triumph of Isabella as part of a seven-painting series that comprise the grand Ommegang in Brussels on 31 May 1615. The exhibition displays for the first time in the United States six smaller scans of the other surviving paintings. The originals hang in museums in London, Madrid and Brussels.

The International Program for Creative Collaboration and Research in the School of Theatre, Dance and Performance Studies initiated this exhibition in collaboration with the Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library and the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, with assistance from the Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, and the Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts, Brussels.

The Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library, located in the Clarice Smith Center for the Performing Arts, is the central location on the College Park campus for music, theatre, and dance materials.

The exhibition runs through May 2019.