07 October 2010

Raphael: Cartoons and tapestries for the Sistine Chapel

It is the title of an exhibition currently going on at the V&A Museum in London.

Of course I wish I could visit it, but in this period it's really impossible for me to go to London...In addition the exhibition will end in a few weeks, so I have no hope to see it from real.
But at least I could buy the catalogue! It's available in most on-line bookstores, and definitely worth buying, so I ordered mine and received it a couple of days ago. (I'm publishing a couple of inside photos, small enough to ensure copyright protection, but large enough to see some example pages!)

The exhibition brings together the tapestry designs ( the Cartoons) that Raphael made in 1515-16 for Pope Leo X, with the actual woven tapestries.

The Cartoons  were never returned from Brussel after  tapestries were woven, as traditionally cartoons became property of the weavers' workshop that had woven tapestries from them. They have been on display at the V&A since 1865. The tapestries, instead were obviously sent to Rome, and although they were originally meant for the Sistine Chapel , they are now on display at the Vatican Museums.
I saw these tapestries last year, and again one  in June as it was hosted in a tapestry exhibiton in Mantua, but I've never seen all of them with their cartoons, and it must be  very interesting to see them in the same place!
Well, the book too is very interesting. It's packed full of images, and the text is the way one would expect from a V&A book, absolutely complete and very well documented (a long bibliography completes the last few pages).

The only improvement that could be suggested would be a bigger size, as the format is not large and some of the photos are really small. But a larger size would have meant also a higher price (which is very affordable  at £14.99 -even less, £10.0 when bought from the V&A site- which is very good for a hardback book with more than a hundred colour photos) so I understand the choice made by the publisher.
Anyway there are also many full-page photos, and  many details are shown large enough to appreciate the weaving. There are also photos showing the back (interesting to see how the original yarns were discoloured by light; on the back some colours are definitely different) and enlarged images of damaged threads.

For more information, visit the V&A page of this exhibition and the V&A bookshop

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