Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Miraculous Draught of Fishes

Raphael Sanzio (1483-1520)
The Miraculous Draught of Fishes, 1515-16
Bodycolour on paper mounted onto canvas (tapestry cartoon),
302 x 309cm
V&A /The Royal Collection, London

Christ is in the midst of choosing Peter and Andrew, two fishermen, as his first apostles.

The two men have been fishing unsuccessfully in the Sea of Galilee when Christ appears to them and tells them to let down their nets into deep water.

In the boat next to Peter and Andrew, two other fishermen struggle to pull up a net with a huge catch.

Peter (in blue) and Andrew (in green), their boat overflowing with fish, kneel reverently before Christ, recognising him as a holy man and promising to follow him.

The incident is related in Luke 5:1-11

When Leo X was elected pope in 1513, he decided to continue the decoration in the Sistine Chapel.Leo decided to cover the lower walls with a tapestry cycle.

Leo X commissioned a set of tapestry designs, or cartoons, from Raphael in 1515.

The ten cartoons depicted episodes from the lives of Saints Peter and Paul. The scenes, served to emphasise the pre-eminence of the Roman Catholic Church and the legitimacy of papal succession

Raphael and his workshop completed the cartoons in December 1516. They were then sent to Belgium so that the tapestries could be woven.

In 1623, seven of the ten cartoons were purchased by Charles I for £300, and have since remained in Britain.

The cartoons are now regarded as independent works of art in their own right and of the greatest artistic importance.