Bringing together sixty-two masterpieces of sixteenth-century northern European art from The Met collection and one important loan, this exhibition revolves around questions of historical worth, exploring relative value systems in the Renaissance era.
Organized in six sections—raw materials, virtuosity, technological advances, fame, market, and paragone—tapestry, stained and vessel glass, sculpture, paintings, precious metal-work, and enamels are juxtaposed with pricing data from sixteenth-century documents.
What did a tapestry cost in the sixteenth century? Goldsmiths' work? Stained glass? How did variables like raw materials, work hours, levels of expertise and artistry, geography, and rarity, affect this? Did production cost necessarily align with perceived market valuation in inventoried collections? Who assigned these values? By exploring different sixteenth-century yardsticks of gauging worth, by probing extrinsic versus intrinsic value, and by presenting works of different media and function side-by-side, the exhibition captures a sense of the splendor and excitement of this era.