Monday, June 27, 2011

Cartoons & Tapestries

I've been reading this new book from the Victoria and Albert Museum. The project originated with the visit of the present Pope to London last year. As a diplomatic gesture, he brought along a set of tapestries woven for the Sistine Chapel in the early 16th century. The Pope back in those days, Leo X, had commissioned Raphael to make large paintings of selected Acts of the Apostles to be used as models or "cartoons" for the tapestry weavers. No one at the time seemed to care what happened to the cartoons after the Flemish weavers finished using them and the tapestries had been sent off to Rome. The paintings remained in various weaving workshops for about a hundred years until acquired by King Charles I. By inheritance they now belong to Queen Elizabeth II and are on permanent display at the V&A. But until last year the cartoons and the tapestries themselves had never been seen together in the same room. Reuniting them could be seen as a graceful gesture on the part of the Vatican to signify its now-cordial sentiments toward its former arch-enemies, the Protestant English. All ten of the original tapestries survive, but only seven of the cartoons, and I show those seven pairs below.

The Miraculous Draught of Fishes

Christ's Charge to Peter

The Healing of the Lame Man

The Death of Ananias

The Conversion of the Proconsul

The Sacrifice at Lystra

Paul Preaching at Athens

Raphael : Cartoons and Tapestries for the Sistine Chapel tells much more about the survival (and reception) of these works over the course of the past 500 years.