Julia van Zandvoort

PhD student

Thesis: An International Fabric: Sixteenth-century Networks of Tapestry Production and Trade between Flanders and Italy (1517-1566)

Supervisor: Dr Guido Rebecchini

Funded by the Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds

The practice of importing tapestries from Flanders into Italy existed well before the sixteenth century, but the arrival of Raphael’s cartoons in Brussels in 1517 marked a turning point in this tradition. It changed the nature and scale of the exchange of tapestries, raw materials, and designs between the two countries. The fame of Flemish tapestries in Italy took flight, which resulted in increased numbers of Italian merchants, bankers, and intermediaries settling in Flanders and involving themselves in this trade. The merchants involved in the tapestry trade shaped a market for materials, money, designs and tapestries, which crossed boundaries in Europe and beyond.

My research project examines these networks of tapestry production and trade, by analysing the several infrastructures, agents and intermediaries involved in this exchange. The foundation for this research is formed by a letter book left to us by the Van der Molen, a merchant family active in Antwerp around the middle of the sixteenth century. The Van der Molen family was originally from Haarlem but settled in Antwerp in the early sixteenth-century after having received their training in Venice. The only documentation left to us from this firm is a letter book in which the Van der Molen copied every letter sent to their solely Italian clientele between 1538-1544. The Van der Molen letters provide a unique insight into the functioning of international tapestry commissions and the trade in tapestries and materials. Taking an active part in the commission trade for tapestries, the Van der Molen received requests for single pieces, entire sets, ready-made tapestries and ordered tapestries of specific measurements and subjects for their clients.

The letters offer a rich body of information on the tapestry market in this time and describe what issues arose in this international commission trade. Thus, the project answers a new set of questions that previous scholarship on tapestry has not touched upon to this extend. Providing new information on the supply of materials and designs for tapestries, their transportation and payment systems, it offers a full account of each action or step required in the establishment of a flourishing international tapestry market.

Research Interests

  • History of design, production and trade of cartoons and tapestries
  • Papal and courtly patronage in sixteenth-century Italy
  • Trans-medial execution
  • Relationship between Italy and Northern-European countries
  • Decorative arts and sculpture (fifteenth- and sixteenth centuries)


  • PhD Candidate, The Courtauld Institute of Art (2020 – present)
  • MA in History of Art, Special Option: Continuity and Innovation: Reframing Italian Renaissance art from Masaccio to Michelangelo, The Courtauld Institute of Art (2018-2019)
  • BA in History of Art, University of Amsterdam (2013-2017)

Teaching and Conferences

  • 2023: Conference organiser and speaker, 28th Medieval Postgraduate Colloquium, the Courtauld, ‘Intersections: Entanglements with Medieval and Renaissance Textiles, 1100-1550’ (22 May)
  • 2021: Teaching Assistant, The Courtauld Institute of Art: Foundations (BA1)

Fellowships and other activities

  • International PhD Fellowship, Istituto Universitario Olandese di Storia dell’Arte (NIKI), Florence (2023)
  • Project Research Assistant, Dr Ketty Gottardo and Dr Guido Rebecchini, the Courtauld (2022)
  • Research Residency, Rubenianum, Antwerp (2022)
  • Associate Editor, Immediations (2022)
  • Founding member of the Textile Working Group
  • Member of Historians of Netherlandish Art


  • Exhibition Review, Raphael. Gold & Silk, Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna (26 September 2023 – 14 January 2024), in Renaissance Studies, vol. 38, no. 3 (June 2024), pp. 448-454.
  • Catalogue entries no. 22 and 23, exhibition catalogue The Art of Experiment: Parmigianino at the Courtauld (2022)

Professional Experience

  • Gallery Manager, Brun Fine Art, London (2020-present)
  • Junior Specialist, AAG Auctioneers, Amsterdam
  • Curatorial Intern German, Dutch, Flemish paintings before 1800, Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main (2018)
  • Research Intern Gerson Digital (RKD), Dutch University Institute (NIKI), Florence (2017)
  • Intern Art Committee, Dutch Central Bank, Amsterdam (2017)
  • Intern Mus.E Palazzo Vecchio, Florence (2016)