Raphael tapestries are being shown for the first time in the United States, at the Columbus Museum of Art in Ohio.
Raffaello Sanzio, better known to the world as Raphael, was one of the trinity of masters of the High Renaissance. The rivalry, real or exaggerated, between himself, Michelangelo, and Leonardo da Vinci produced some of the most enduring and famous art in the Western world. He died young, only 37 but he left behind a body of work that included hundreds of paintings, frescoes, drawings, prints, architecture, and tapestries.
In 1515, Pope Leo X commissioned a series of large tapestries to be hung in the Sistine Chapel. He completed the cartoons, the designs for the tapestries in the same year, and they were made in Brussels and hung in the Chapel in the Vatican, where those ones remain today. But long after the artist’s death, British King Charles I, a passionate collector of art, had copies woven in a London factory in 1623, called the Dresden tapestries.
Identical in nearly every way (though with certain Catholic iconographies carefully edited out), the Dresden tapestries have passed through many hands. In 1991, they were returned to Dresden, where 8 years were spent in restoring them.
Full of color and detail, the six tapestries show vignettes from the New Testament of the Bible, such as St. Paul preaching in Athens, Jesus recruiting his disciples from among fishermen, and Christ speaking to St. Peter.
The Columbus Museum of Art will display them together with full-sized reproductions of the original cartoons, which are currently in the British royal collection, two early drafts of them, and a wealth of Baroque and Renaissance art inspired by the tapestries, showing the long-lasting influence of Raphael’s work.
Enhancing the experience, the museum gallery will also feature music from the 16th and 17th century performed on historical instruments and recorded by two local groups.
The exhibition will run until October 30.
Photo: Davide Zanin Photography / Shutterstock