Cartons for tapestries, Raphael (Part II)

Cartons for tapestries, Raphael (Part II)
Cartons for tapestries, Raphael (Part II)

In this second entry on the cartoons of the Acts of the Apostles painted by Rafael de Urbino or Rafael de Sanzio we will delve a little more into the work of the Renaissance artist, a work that, as we already pointed out in the previous entry, was destined to hang from the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican Palace and therefore to permanently compete with some of the magnificent works of art that were there, whether they were the frescoes by Ghirlandaio, those by Boticelli or even the well-known vault painted by Miguel Angel.

It seems to be according to the documentary sources found in this regard, that at first the commission of Pope Leo X was at first sixteen tapestries each with its respective cardboard although later, the commission was reduced to ten. The cartoons must have been finished in the year 1516 since that was when the payment was made to the artist, the year before another payment had already been made as a signal at the beginning of the work; the not inconsiderable amount of sixteen thousand ducats was the money that Pope Leo allocated to the tapestries, although it is true that most of it was not for Raphael but for the exquisite materials with which they were they wove the tapestries as well as for the workshop in Flanders that made them.

400px-V&A_-_Raphael, _The_Death_of_Ananias_(1515)

It was precisely the fact that the tapestries were woven in Flanders what we assume madethat the artist made the cartoons on paper, joining several sheets that he was sending to Van Aelst's workshop in Brussels. Interestingly, not only was a series of tapestries made for the Vatican, but experts assume that since the pope never claimed the original cartoons, they were used to make other series with the same pattern. In this way, experts have pointed out four other series woven in the same century: one belonging to King Henry VIII of England, another to Francis I of France, plus two incomplete series that are currently in Spain. However, only in the series destined for the Vatican are the tapestries decorated in the surroundings with borders of geometric and vegetal motifs.

The theme of the Cartons coincides with a moment of tension within the church, Luther's Reformation increasingly found more followers and presented greater problems for Rome; Perhaps for this reason, many of the cartoons emphasize the figure of Saint Peter as the cornerstone of the Christian church, relying on the figure of Saint Paul. Among some of the themes that were represented in these cartoons we can find: The miraculous catch of fish, Christ's commission to Saint Peter or even the Conversion of Saint Paul among others.

However, if Raphael's sketches became really popular it was due to a successful commercial strategy, at the same time that the artist sent the huge cardboards to Flanders, the smaller models of the compositions were destined for the workshop of the engraver Marcantonio raimondi whomade splendid prints.

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