Raphael Tapestries in the Vatican Pinacoteca: a quick look.
The Raphael Tapestries and the cartoons that form the initial designs from which they were made are, commissioned by Pope Leo X in 1515 their intended home was the lower walls of the Sistine Chapel. they were meant to be hung on special occasions they depict events from the life of St Peter and the life of St Paul, Raphael and his workshop completed the cartoons in Rome but the tapestries were woven in Bruges, a centre of excellence for tapestry production throughout Europe.
Michelangelo had completed the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in 1512 to universal acclaim, at the same time Raphael was busy decorating the Stanze rooms in the Vatican: Raphael was hence aware that comparisons with his designs and Michelangelo’s ceiling in the Sistine Chapel were inevitable. He took great care when preparing the cartoons and actually produced a depth of colour that had actually been lost in the tapestry transposition.
The Bruges workshop of Pieter van Aelst in Brussels was chosen for the difficult task of interpreting Raphael’s cartoons and converting his ideas into tapestries, a totally different medium from that of the painted cartoons: ten tapestries were woven between 1516 and 1521 and seven of the completed works were hung in the Sistine Chapel for the first time on St Stephen’s Day 26th December 1519. This is possibly the only time that Raphael saw any of the finished tapestries in their intended location, as he died on April 6th 1520 at the age of 37.