The Raphael Cartoons: The Conversion of the Proconsul

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.

The Conversion of the Proconsul also known as The Blinding of Elymas (Acts 13: 6 – 12)

Paul preaches to a Roman proconsul (regional governor) and converts him to Christianity by performing a miracle, described as the 'Blinding of Elymas'.

On their journey through Cyprus, the apostles Paul, wearing the red tunic, and Barnabas, stood to his left, arrive in Paphos and are called before the Roman proconsul Lucius Sergius Paulus, who wants to hear about the Christian faith. The sorcerer Elymas tries to prevent Paul and Barnabas from converting the proconsul so Paul punishes him with temporary blindness. Astonished at what he has witnessed, Paulus embraces the new faith.

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, The Conversion of the Proconsul also known as The Blinding of Elymas (Acts 13: 6 – 12), cartoon for a tapestry, by Raphael, about 1515 – 16, Italy. Museum number: ROYAL LOANS.8. Photo: © Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Courtesy Royal Collection Trust / Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, 2021

EXPLORE THE CARTOONS

Background image: Raphael Cartoon, The Conversion of the Proconsul also known as The Blinding of Elymas (Acts 13: 6 – 12), cartoon for a tapestry, by Raphael, about 1515 – 16, Italy. Museum number: ROYAL LOANS.8. Photo: © Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Courtesy Royal Collection Trust / Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, 2021