Raffaello’s Tapestry Design for Pope Leone X

We marvel to see the beauty of Raffaello’s design. During his short life, he was able to accomplish so many works of art.

Everything created during his lifetime was from his drawings. He designed everything himself, for etchings, frescoes, tapestries, paintings, and architecture.

Some of his drawings were turned into beautiful engravings by Marcantonio Raimondi, an excellent engraver that was chosen by Raffaello to reproduce his work after he saw what Albreck Durer created.

The fresco in the Farnesina, the fresco in Villa Madama, in Rome, patronized by the banker Agostino Chigi were all painted from drawings by Raffaello. The frescoes were painted mostly by his pupil Giulio Romano, and others, like Giovanni da Udine, in La Farnesina, with his leaves, and fruits that he just saw coming from America.

Pope Leone X wished to portray a religious message in one of the most sacred places of Christianity, and in 1515 commissioned Raffaello to create ten cartoons for tapestry, with scenes of Saint Peter and Saint Paul for the Sistine Chapel.

According to Vasari’s story in his book “Le Vite” Raffaello created all ten drawings for Pope Leone X’s tapestries to adorn the Papal Sistine Chapel in the Vatican. His cartoons were sent to the famous workshop of Pier Van Aeist in Brussels, Flanders. They were drawn in colors by his own hand to be woven into a rich tapestry with gold and floss silk in exact form and size. Raffaello probably saw some of them before he died. They returned between 1516 to 1520. Everybody that saw them could not believe how it could have been possible to weave the hair and the beards so finely and to have such softness to the flesh merely by the use of thread.”

There is a beautiful video showing some of the tapestries in the Raffaello 500 program below.

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