The Raphael Cartoons were commissioned by Pope Leo X in 1515 and are among the greatest treasures of the High Renaissance. Painted by Raphael (1483-1520) and his assistants, they are full-scale designs for tapestries that were made to cover the lower walls of the Vatican's Sistine Chapel. The tapestries depict the Acts of St Peter and St Paul, the founders of the early Christian Church.
The Raphael Cartoons
The Raphael Cartoons were commissioned from the great Italian Renaissance painter Raphael Sanzio (1483-1520) in 1515 by Pope Leo X (reigned 1513-21). They were planned as full-scale designs for a set of ten tapestries that Leo X intended to cover the lower walls of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican.
Video: A Tale of Two Raphaels
When the Pope visited Britain in 2010, four of Raphael’s tapestries for the Sistine Chapel were reunited with the ‘cartoon’s used to create them for the first time in 495 years. In this special film, Dr Mark Evans, Senior Curator of Paintings, visits the V&A and Windsor Castle to reveal how Raphael made the cartoons which were used to make tapestries by specialist weavers in Brussels and how they come to be at the V&A.
Tapestry is an ancient technique of weaving. The pattern is woven in blocks of coloured weft thread which are then beaten down very tightly on the warp threads, producing a picture or pattern. The V&A's collection includes four 15th-century examples, known as The Devonshire Hunting Tapestries, and Raphael's cartoons of tapestries for the Sistine Chapel.