Cartons for tapestries, Rafael (I part)

Cartons for tapestries, Rafael (I part)
Cartons for tapestries, Rafael (I part)

There are many artists who throughout their artistic careers worked making cartoons for tapestries, perhaps the best known case for all are the famous Goya cartoons that represent typical scenes of the Madrid society of his time. However, many other artists also made these cartoons that later served as the basis for making the great tapestries that adorned the halls of the palaces. Although it is true that the preparatory drawings for the tapestries did not always carry the same importance as a canvas, the artists put all their care and technical skills into it, especially when dealing with commissions from important clients. The work was not easy either, since when it was woven upside down on the looms, the composition was inverted, a fact that painters had to keep in mind. In addition, we must point out on the other hand that often the creative and artistic vein of the artists in the cardboards that they repaired far exceeded the skills of the weavers so that it was not always possible to carry out the chromatic qualities that were designed in the cardboards.

800px-V&A_-_Raphael, _The_Miraculous_Draught_of_Fishes_(1515)

On this occasion we find some cartoons designed by one of the most outstanding Renaissance geniuses of all time, Rafael De Sanzio. Raphael (1483 – 1520) had already conquered the Renaissance world with his kind painting and the great drawing of him,he was aware of the tastes of the Vatican since he had already worked for the papacy and his mastery with brushes was known throughout Italy. For all these reasons Pope Leo X commissioned the artist at the end of 1514 to make seven large drawings that were to be used to repair the tapestries. The drawings were of enormous dimensions – some reach almost five meters wide and three meters high – something that was not a great difficulty for Rafael since he was already working on what are known as Vatican Rooms, murals of enormous dimensions.

The cartoons depicted different scenes from the Acts of the Apostles and were intended to hang on the walls of the Sistine Chapel. The small chapel located inside the Vatican Palace already had numerous frescoes made by important artists such as Ghirlandaio or Boticelli that decorated the lower part of the walls, and by that same time Michelangelo had finished the decoration of the dome with the scenes of the creation and the paintings of the Last Judgment would still take about thirty years to complete.

In this way, Raphael's tapestries had to decorate the space between the frescoes and the vault, tapestries that would not always be hung but would be reserved for their beauty and importance for great celebrations. The pressure on the artist was even greater sincehis works would be compared in situ with the frescoes of some of the Quattrocento masters andwith those of Michelangelo who, at the time, did not consider Raphael an important enough painter to compete with him.

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