The Raphael Cartoons by Raphael at The Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Welcome to “Art, Culture & Books” with me Anthony King. Today I’ll be taking you on a video and photographic tour of The Raphael Cartoons by Raphael at The Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

As always, I take all the photos and videos myself on location, ensuring you get an up-close and personal view of the fascinating world of art and culture. I’ll be popping in and out with commentary as this video progresses but for now let’s take a close up look.

Born on either March 28 or April 6, 1483, Raphael, an Italian painter and architect of the High Renaissance, created the Raphael Cartoons, a set of seven full-scale designs for tapestry. Alongside Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo, he is part of the trinity of great masters from that era, with his work celebrated for its clarity of form and ease of composition.

Considered among the greatest treasures of the Renaissance in the UK, the Raphael Cartoons were commissioned by Pope Leo X in 1515 for the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel. These monumental designs depict the lives of the apostles Saint Peter and Saint Paul. Only seven of the original ten Cartoons have survived, and they have been on loan to the V&A from His Majesty The King since 1865.

The Raphael Court at the V&A houses these massive tapestry designs, showcasing key episodes from the lives of Saint Peter and Saint Paul. The surviving Cartoons depicting Saint Peter’s life include “The Miraculous Draught of Fishes” and “Christ’s Charge to Peter,” illustrating pivotal moments in Peter’s discipleship. Additionally, “The Healing of the Lame Man” and “The Death of Ananias” portray miracles performed by the saint. In contrast, only three of the six Cartoons depicting the life of Saint Paul have survived: “The Conversion of the Proconsul,” “The Sacrifice at Lystra,” and “Paul Preaching at Athens.”

These artworks gained global recognition as they became familiar to artists during the Renaissance and Baroque periods through widespread reproduction in the form of prints. Interestingly, Raphael was acutely aware that his creations would be displayed beneath the recently completed Sistine Chapel ceiling, crafted by Michelangelo just two years prior. Consequently, he devoted meticulous attention to refining his designs, resulting in some of his most extensive and intricate works. He did a great job wouldn’t you say?

By Anthony King (c)