Weaving in freedom

Weven in vrijheid

From the late 16th century, Gouda welcomed hundreds of Flemish refugees, including many tapestry workers. In the project Weaving in freedom: Flemish tapestry workers in Gouda at the beginning of the Republic, RKD-curator Rudy Jos Beerens examines how they managed to make their tapestry art successful in Gouda too.


The aim of the project Weaving in freedom is to map out the Flemish tapestry workers in seventeenth-century Gouda and investigate how these refugees managed to make tapestry art flourish in Gouda thanks to social networks and commercial strategies. Within the study, the role of women in the tapestry industry will also be examined in more detail.

Flemish tapestry workers in Gouda

Between 1580 and 1620, Gouda quickly turned into one of the largest tapestry centres in the Low Countries. The city welcomed hundreds of refugees from Oudenaarde and its surroundings, many of whom had been involved in the tapestry industry there. Many of these Flemish artists continued their artistic activities after arriving in Gouda, but little is known so far about exactly how or what they produced in the city. Starting from a socio-economic perspective, the RKD-project Weaving in freedom changes this. By mapping and analysing the histories of all Gouda tapestry entrepreneurs, designers and weavers for the first time in a systematic and inclusive way, it examines how these migrants were able to introduce their labour- and capital-intensive industries to Gouda seemingly without any problems, what strategies they used to operate successfully and what influence their migration had on the spread of Flemish artistic ideas and visual traditions in the Northern Netherlands.


The project will start 1 September 2023. Project leader is RKD curator Rudy Jos Beerens. He will start with an extensive literature and archive research inside and outside the RKD. The collected and processed data will then be analysed, described and published from 2024 onwards.


Rudy Jos Beerens received a NWO Museum grant for this project. The RKD applied for this grant in collaboration with Leiden University, with Yvonne Bleyerveld as co-applicant. This project is also supported by the Hendrik Mullerfonds.


The first phase of the project consists of gathering and sharing information about the lives and activities of Flemish refugees from Oudenaarde and its surroundings who were involved in the production of tapestry art in Gouda. The results of this phase, such as biographical data and attributions, are kept and shared in the RKD databases. During the second phase, the data will be combined and analysed, examining how widespread mutual relationships between Gouda tapestry workers were, whether artists maintained contacts with relatives in Oudenaarde and what role women played in the organisation of workshops. Digging out the history of the Gouda tapestry entrepreneurs will provide new knowledge about the artistic and socio-economic strategies they employed and tapestries in public collections. The research findings will be published in scholarly articles.

Related posts