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    Raphael's Miraculous Draught of Fishes (click on image to enlarge)

    An exhibition of four of the ten tapestries designed by Raphael for the Sistine Chapel goes on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London from September 8 to October 17.  The exhibition of these original tapestries, masterpieces of High Renaissance art, will coincide with the historic visit to England and Scotland of Pope Benedict XVI.  They have never been seen in England before.

    The tapestries, of the Acts of St Peter and St Paul, The Miraculous Draught of Fishes, Christ’s Charge to Peter, The Healing of the Lame Man, and The Sacrifice at Lystra, were made for the Sistine Chapel almost 500 years ago after Raphael was commissioned by Pope Leo X in 1515, three years after Michaelangelo completed the chapel ceiling. The tapestries were woven in Brussels, Europe’s leading centre for tapestry-weaving.
    Interest in tapestry has been on the increase since the spectacular Tapestry in the Renaissance show at the Metropolitan Museum, New York,  in 2002 which highlighted the great cycles of the late 15th and early 16th centuries as the unsung glories of Renaissance art. The Vatican Museums own the tapestries, the Cartoons, or designs for them belong to Queen Elizabeth.  They have been on long-term loan to the V&A since Queen Victoria lent them in 1865.
    The four tapestries will be hung in the V&A’s Raphael Gallery next to the seven Cartoons. The design of each cartoon corresponds in every point, but in reverse, to the tapestry it was made for. The weavers cut Raphael’s cartoons into strips and copied them closely, weaving each tapestry from the back. The front image was therefore the reverse of its cartoon. The painted strips of cartoon were joined together again later, and became prized as artworks in their own right.

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