July 16, 2010. Tape
stries by Raphael that decorate the bottom of the wall of the Sistine Chapel will travel to London for Benedict XVI's visit to the United Kingdom from September 16 to 19.
The Victoria and Albert Museum in London will receive these tapestries for the first time and will display them along with seven tapestry sketches already displayed in the museum.
The Sistine Chapel displayed the tapestries in their original place for a few hours to commemorate the event.
Director, Vatican Museums
“The pope's visit to the UK is very important and they needed something worthy of this extraordinary occasion. So after 500 years, five centuries, these tapestries are going to London.”
“Raphael produced paintings on the same side at the tapestries which were not be the final product but only an intermediate product towards the tapestries . In fact they did not come back to Rome so we will be able to see in London is something that Raphael himself has not seen.”
The tapestries depict scenes from the Gospels and Acts of the Apostles. Among those travelling to London is “The Miraculous Draught of Fishes,” “Christ's Charge to Peter,” and “Saint Paul in Prison.”
Sketches were made first and then used as guides for weaving. Raphael made these sketches in 1516 and they are now on display in London. In 1960 they had to be restored in order to rework the tapestries that had been cut into pieces.
Anna Maria De Strobel
Vatican tapestry specialist
“All the tapestries need a preparatory drawing that has the same dimensions as the tapestry. Raphael's sketches reflect only the central scene, not the base or the frieze because the drawing is then used for weaving the tapestry.”
Pope Leo X commissioned the tapestries and they were woven in Pieter van Aelst's factory in Brussels after 1517. The pope chose one of the greatest artists at the time, as the tapestries were to be the height of the frescoes by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel. The Vatican paid 1,500 ducats for the manufacture of each tapestry and 1,000 ducats to the artist.
A great number of people were required to weave each tapestry: from specialsts in intricate weaves of hands and faces, to the people responsible for the tapestries' colors.
Now, for the first time in history, the artistry of the drawings and the tapestries can be enjoyed together.