Raphael’s tapestries return to the walls of the Sistine Chapel

The first few tapestries were completed in December 1519, and brought to the chapel immediately thereafter. However, Raphael died in the months following and never got to see the complete collection.

By Zachary Keyser, JPOST 

A tapestry designed by Renaissance artist Raphael is installed on a lower wall of the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican as part of celebrations marking the 500th anniversary of his death (photo credit: REUTERS)

A tapestry designed by Renaissance artist Raphael is installed on a lower wall of the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican as part of celebrations marking the 500th anniversary of his death  (photo credit: REUTERS)

Ten breathtaking tapestries commissioned by High Renaissance artist Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino, known as Raphael, have been returned to the Sistine Chapel after centuries of separation.

The tapestries are being brought to the famous chapel in Vatican City to commemorate the anniversary of Raphael’s death. Normally the tapestries are housed on rotation in the “Raphael Room” at the Vatican Museum, and have not been removed from the facility in centuries.

Referred to informally the Raphael Cartoons, the extravagant tapestries depict the lives of Saint Peter and Paul – painted by Raphael and then sent to Brussels to be woven into tapestries by master weaver Pieter van Aulst.


Tapestry "Christ's charge to Peter" designed by Renaissance artist Raphael is on display on a lower wall of the Sistine Chapel at the VaticanTapestry “Christ’s charge to Peter” designed by Renaissance artist Raphael is on display on a lower wall of the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican

Pope Leo X set Raphael out with the task of the designing the tapestries for the walls of Apostolic Palace chapel in 1515, shortly after Michelangelo finished painting the ceiling, the cornerstone of the Sistine Chapel, to give the walls a more lively look from the barren appearance they initially portrayed.

The first few tapestries were completed in December 1519, and brought to the chapel immediately thereafter. However, Raphael died in the months following and therefore never got to see the complete collection displayed together.

“We wanted for the celebration of 500 years of Raphael’s death to give the opportunity to share the beauty that is represented by the tapestry together in this beautiful, universal place that is the Sistine Chapel,” said Barbara Jatta, director of the Vatican Museums, according to CNN.

Although historically rivals, vying for the commissions offered by the Vatican – Raphael and Michelangelo together with Leonardo da Vinci, form the traditional trinity of great masters and architects of the High Renaissance period.

In relation, just two years ago the Vatican found two paintings by Raphael, that were believed to be lost centuries ago, hiding in room in the Museum after going missing for nearly 500 years.

Art connoisseurs believe that these are the last two paintings he created before his early death in 1520 at just 37.

The works were meant to be displayed throughout the private apartment of Pope Julius II. Raphael completed three rooms of the apartment, the two paintings were intended to decorate the fourth and largest room, but Raphael died before he could complete the works.

Therefore, other artists were commissioned to finish the room and Raphael’s two painting were stored and forgotten in a room for over 500 years, to be exact.

Despite his early death Raphael left a large body of work behind. A good portion of it is displayed at the Vatican – as a sign of respect four rooms of the Palace are dedicated strictly to his work, showing how revered and influential the High Renaissance master was.

February 24, 2020 | Comments » | 228 views

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