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Monday, September 13, 2010

The Raphael Cartoons and Tapestries at the V&A Museum

A Tale of Two Raphaels from Victoria and Albert Museum on Vimeo.


Commissioned by Pope Leo X, Raphael completed a series of 10 cartoons (short of the 16 first intended) to serve as preparatory drawings for tapestries to be displayed in the Sistine Chapel.

Probably complete around 1516, they were sent to Brussels to be woven from wool, silk, gold and silver in the workshop of Pieter van Aelst.
It's more than likely that the cartoons were not returned together with the tapestries, for other versions were made, namely for Henry VIII of England in 1542.

From those 10 cartoons, only 7 have reached our time, which are part of the Royal Collection and have been on display in the V&A since 1865, while the 10 original tapestries are in the Vatican and are hung during special occasions.

To celebrate the visit of Pope Benedict XIV to the UK in 2010, the Vatican lent four of those tapestries to the Victoria & Albert Museum to be displayed aside Raphael's cartoons, something that the artist himself never had the opportunity to admire.

Commonly called "Acts of the Apostles" and representing scenes from the lives of Saints Peter and Paul, the cartoons are slightly over 3 meters tall, between 3 to 5 meters wide, and are painted in a glue distemper medium on many sheets of paper glued together, which are now mounted on a canvas backing.

The exhibition "Raphael: Cartoons and Tapestries for the Sistine Chapel" will be on display at the V&A Museum from September 8 through October 17, 2010.
Pre-booking is strongly advised.
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