For the first time, both the Sistine Chapel tapestries by Raphael and the artist’s cartoons (designs upon which the tapestries were based) will be on exhibition side by side at London’s Victorian and Albert Museum on September.
The tapestries, which were commissioned by Pope Leo X, are 500 years old. They depict scenes from the book of Acts in the lives of Peter and Paul, and are Vatican properties which are displayed at the Arazzi Gallery, the Catholic Herald said.
The cartoons by Raphael are the property of the Queen and have been displayed at the Victorian and Albert Museum since 1865. However for the first time in September, both will be displayed together, which is something the artist himself had never seen, the Catholic Herald said.
The exhibition, slated to run Sept 8 to Oct. 17, will coincide with Pope Benedict XVI’s state visit to the UK. Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster, who initiated the plans for the exhibition, will perform its inauguration on September 6, the Catholic Herald said.
Raphael tapestries in the Sistine Chapel. Credit: Vatican
The tapestries were woven in Brussels before they were sent to Rome. During the Sack of Rome they were sold for one year when the Vatican needed to raise money. They have been brought to different countries and because they contain gold and silver within them, some had tried to extract the metals through burning, the Catholic Herald said.
Six scenes in the life of Paul are illustrated in the tapestries, namely the stoning to death of Stephen (which Paul had ordered), Paul’s conversion, the blinding of Elymas the Sorcerer, sacrifices in Lystra, Paul’s time in prison and his preaching in Athens, the Catholic Herald said.
Four scenes from Peter’s life which are depicted are the handing of the keys to heaven, the draught of fish, healing of the lame man, and the death of Ananias, the Catholic Herald said.
An exhibition like this ordinarily takes two to three years to put together, however this one will be completed within six months. Its potential for bringing together people of varied backgrounds, whether Catholic or not, cannot be overlooked, the Catholic Herald said.
When the tapestries had a one day exhibition at the Sistine Chapel, (they were placed in the parts of the Chapel where they were believed to have been originally situated), one of the visitors was Professor Elizabeth Lev, who teaches Christian art and architecture at Duquesne University, the Catholic Herald said.
Of the exhibit Duquesne said, “Again, art shows itself to be a bridge between people. If we can’t dialogue nicely about Church and state and life issues, let’s start with something we can dialogue about properly: art and beauty – we all love this. For one night we can all have something in common – we can come together and it’s totally non-confrontational,” the Catholic Herald said.
The entrance to the September exhibition at the Victorian and Albert Museum is free, but interested parties are advised to book in advance, the Catholic Herald said.