'The Miraculous Draught of Fishes' cartoon
Loan from The Royal Collection
Only in the nineteenth century did 'cartoon' come to mean a comical drawing. Hitherto it meant a design, or preliminary sketch. These designs for tapestries were commissioned in Rome in 1515, but brought to London by Charles I for use in his new tapestry workshop at Mortlake. Now they are the greatest body of High Renaissance art outside Italy. Pope Leo X intended the tapestries to be hung in the Sistine Chapel on feast days. This put Raphael in very deliberate competition with Michelangelo, whose ceiling paintings in this part of the Vatican were then assumed to be the highpoint of Roman decoration. If Michelangelo possessed a sublime, almost aggressive force, Raphael was more committed to elegance and a more quiet beauty.
Stephen Bayley, Guest Curator