The Vatican's Pinacoteca (Picture Gallery) is home to ten large tapestries (1516-21), masterpieces from the workshop of the renowned Flemish weaver Pieter van Aelst, which were commissioned in 1515 by Pope Leo X (r. 1513-21).
The designs for the tapestries, which depict scenes from the lives of St Peter and St Paul, were provided by the artist Raphael (1483-1520) and his assistants, who created a series of full scale coloured cartoons (seven of which survive).
The tapestries, which measure four by five metres, were designed to be hung, albeit only on special occasions, in the Sistine Chapel. They were last displayed in the chapel for a week in February 2020 to mark the 500th anniversary of Raphael's death. It was a rare and memorable occasion.
Following the delivery of the tapestries to Pope Leo X, all trace is lost of the cartoons until the sudden reappearance of seven of them in England in 1623. The Prince of Wales, the future King Charles I, bought them from an unknown source in the city of Genoa.
Raphael's seven cartoons are on permanent display in the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.
My name is David Lown and I am an art historian from Cambridge, England. Since 2001 I have lived in Italy, where I run private and
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