V&A to display Raphael's Sistine tapestries

  • The Miraculous Draught of Fishes by Raphael, tapestry version from the Vatican Museum.

    The Miraculous Draught of Fishes by Raphael, tapestry version from the Vatican Museum.

To mark Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Britain next month, four glittering tapestries designed by Raphael for the Sistine Chapel will hang, for the first time ever, beside his original designs, or cartoons, in the Victoria & Albert museum.

Three years after Michelangelo finished the Sistine Chapel ceiling, in 1515, Pope Leo X ordered a set of sumptuous tapestries for the lower walls.

Now widely underappreciated, tapestry was, above all other art forms, the one that signalled princely magnificence in the 16th century. Raphael's 10 completed tapestries cost at least 16,000 ducats, at least five times what Michelangelo was paid for the ceiling.

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