The Raphael Cartoons: Christ's Charge to Peter

The Raphael Cartoons are considered one of the greatest treasures of the Renaissance. These huge, full-scale designs for tapestries were created by Raphael – one of the most important masters of the Renaissance period. Commissioned by Pope Leo X, shortly after his election in 1513, for the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican Palace, the Cartoons depict key episodes of the lives of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, the founding fathers of the Christian church.

Christ's Charge to Peter (Matthew 16: 18 – 19 & John 21: 15 – 17)

After his Crucifixion, Jesus returns from the dead, choosing Peter as his first representative on earth and entrusting him with the keys to the Gates of Heaven.

Christ, with the wounds of his Crucifixion still visible and wearing a white robe to symbolise his Resurrection, commands Peter to start spreading the Christian faith on his behalf. By pointing towards the sheep, symbolising the future Christian flock, and at Peter, their future leader, he creates a connection between the two.

The corresponding tapestry was displayed in the Sistine Chapel on St Stephen day, 26 December, 1519. It is probable that Raphael saw it and even supervised its installation in the chapel.

Zoom in and explore the Cartoon in ultra-high definition

Click on points of interest to discover more about the painting's characters, symbolism and Raphael's masterly technique.


You can also explore ultra-high resolution colour, 3D and infrared photography of the Cartoon, revealing previously hidden details.

  • Colour (visible paint layer) – Explore the Cartoon's paint layer, including Raphael's individual brushstrokes.
  • 3D (surface layer) – Discover evidence of the Cartoon's treatment over the past 500 years, including any restoration work, by exploring its unique surface texture.
  • Infrared (drawing layer) – Peer below the paint surface to Raphael's original charcoal underdrawings.

Select your layer from the key or use the scroll bar to transition between the layers and observe subtle differences between the charcoal underdrawing and the paint layer, and the paint layer and the surface texture.

Raphael Cartoon, Christ's Charge to Peter (Matthew 16: 18–19 & John 21: 15 – 17), cartoon for a tapestry, by Raphael, about 1515 – 16, Italy. Museum number: ROYAL LOANS.3. Photo: © Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Courtesy Royal Collection Trust / Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, 2021

EXPLORE THE CARTOONS

Background image: Raphael Cartoon, Christ's Charge to Peter (Matthew 16: 18–19 & John 21: 15 – 17), cartoon for a tapestry, by Raphael, about 1515 – 16, Italy. Museum number: ROYAL LOANS.3. Photo: © Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Courtesy Royal Collection Trust / Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, 2021