art: raphael cartoons at the v&a

9 Sep

Ever since I first moved to London I have spent many an hour whiling away at the V&A, one of the most magnificent museums in all the world.

My favourite room in any museum in the entire world is the Raphael Cartoon gallery at the V&A remarkable not only for the incredible artworks on display, but for the sheer majesty of the space to house them in – now I don’t know if you know much about the cartoons, but they’re the original drawings by Raphael for the tapestries to hang on the lower half of the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican.  Of course back when the cartoons were made they were not the precious part, they were usually thrown away after the much more valuable tapestries were woven, these were saved and are now priceless works of art in their own right owned by Her Majesty the Queen.  Four of Raphael’s tapestries for the Sistine Chapel will be shown for the first time alongside the full-size designs for them – the Raphael Cartoons, which have been on display at the V&A since 1865.  The tapestries were considered so beautiful that several European monarchs made copies of them including King Henry VIII.

(shown above and below the tapestry and corresponding cartoon underneath, the cartoon is the reverse mirror image of the cartoon, where the weaver would have worked from them)

Made almost 500 years ago, these tapestries are the only surviving examples designed by Raphael, and are comparable to Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel Ceilingas masterpieces of High Renaissance art. This exhibition is the result of a collaboration between the VA and the Vatican Museums.  The exhibition of the tapestries will coincide with the visit of Pope Benedict XVI.

So, the exhibition is free, but you’ll need to book (here) I’ve just booked for this Sunday, where Chip and I plan on enjoying a late breakfast in Knightsbridge, and wander through the Royal Parks (we’re going to see if we can spot the leaves turning just yet) and then a brisk walk to the V&A . . . excited?  You betcha!



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