Aelst I, Pieter Van (D'Alost, Pierre)

(ca. 1450-1522)
   Pieter van Aelst, the surname of Pieter van Edingen (Pierre d'Enghien) rose to become the greatest among tapestry weavers and merchants in Brussels in the early 16th century. Born in Waterloes, near Aalst, about 1450, van Aelst completed his apprenticeship as a weaver and began his mercantile activities in Aalst. About 1493, he established himself in Brussels, where the court often resided and where the tapestry trade was then expanding rapidly.
   Beginning in 1497, van Aelst furnished tapestries to the Hapsburg rulers of Brabant. In 1502, he traveled to Spain and was subse­quently appointed valet de chambre and supplier of tapestries to King Philip I on 8 July 1502 in Toledo. In 1506, he was again in Spain, re­turning to Brussels in 1508. In 1509, van Aelst was appointed valet de chambre and official weaver to the young archduke Charles V, a position that entailed overseeing the royal inventory, purchasing ma­terials, and planning the adornment of public buildings on the occa­sion of holidays and celebrations.
   The high point of his career came with a commission from Pope Leo X for a tapestry depicting the Acts of the Apostles. Woven from a cartoon painted by Raphael and illustrating the history of Saints Pe­ter and Paul, the tapestry was intended to adorn the Sistine Chapel. The assignment marked the introduction of the Italian influence on the art of tapestry weaving in the Low Countries. Other papal com­missions followed. Van Aelst worked concurrently for the royal court and the aristocracy in Brussels. Sometime between 1516 and 1518 he most likely wove the four-section masterpiece Our Lady of the Sablon, of which two sections are preserved in Brussels.
Unlike his predecessors in Brussels, he established himself as the head of a workshop, which dates from 1502, that acquired interna­tional repute. Despite ever present difficulties in securing payment— the court paid his wages irregularly—van Aelst amassed a consider­able fortune and acquired large property holdings. He died in Brussels on 23 July 1522.

Historical Dictionary of Brussels. .

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