In 2020, we will mark the 500th anniversary of Raphael’s death by transforming the way visitors experience the iconic Raphael Cartoons, loaned to the V&A from the Royal Collection by Her Majesty The Queen. The Raphael Court – home to the Cartoons – will be refurbished by award-winning practice Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios and with an innovative new lighting scheme by designers ZNA, that will increase the visibility of the works.
In August 2019, the V&A and Royal Collection Trust worked with Factum Foundation and Momart to carry out an extensive photography project, supported by the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851. This work will form part of the new gallery interpretation that will reveal fascinating in-depth stories about the production and history of the Raphael Cartoons – their function as full-scale tapestry designs for the Sistine Chapel, the ingenuity of Raphael and his workshop, the rescue, life and status of the Cartoons in England in the 17th century, and the fascination they have provoked since then up to the present day. We will also be making high-definition images, infra-red and 3D scans of the Cartoons available in the gallery and online, which will allow visitors to explore the Cartoons in incredible detail.
The Raphael Cartoons are considered among the greatest treasures of the Renaissance. In 1515, Pope Leo X commissioned Raphael to create a set of ten full-scale designs for a series of tapestries for the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel, illustrating scenes from the lives of Saint Peter and Saint Paul. Once complete, the Cartoons – each measuring around 5 metres wide and 3. 5 metres high – were sent to the workshop of merchant-weaver Pieter van Aelst in Brussels, which transformed the monumental designs into tapestries. Seven of the Cartoons survive to this day, brought to Britain in the 17th century by the Prince of Wales, later Charles I. They remained in the Royal Collection and were loaned to the South Kensington Museum – now the V&A – by Queen Victoria in 1865 in memory of Prince Albert, where they have been on public display ever since.
The refurbishment of The Raphael Court is supported by Lydia and Manfred Gorvy, Julia and Hans Rausing, American Express, the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851, The Hintze Family Charitable Foundation, the Robert H. Smith Family Foundation, the American Friends of the V&A, and many other generous donors.
Find out more about the Raphael Cartoons