Raphael tapestries go on show in Britain

Mon Sep 6, 2010 9:49am EDT
 
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By Peter Griffiths

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Four priceless tapestries designed by the Renaissance master Raphael have gone on display with their original drawings for the first time at an exhibition in London to coincide with Pope Benedict's visit to Britain.

The fragile artworks -- woven from wool, silk, gold and silver -- were created for the Sistine Chapel and are considered to be among the greatest treasures of the High Renaissance.

The Vatican has never lent four of its Raphael tapestries at the same time before, but agreed to support the exhibition at London's Victoria & Albert Museum to mark this month's papal trip.

The restored works have been hung next to the artist's full-size preparatory designs, known as the Raphael Cartoons, derived from the Italian word for a large sheet of paper.

Professor Arnold Nesselrath, a director at the Vatican Museums, said it was symbolic to reunite the Catholic Church's tapestries with the Cartoons, which belong to the queen, head of the Church of England. Britain's Henry VIII broke with the church in Rome in the 16th century.

"It's very exciting to do something that's never been done before," he said. "This was an ideal match. The pope liked it very much." The six-week exhibition opens on Wednesday.

'MORTAL GOD'

Commissioned by Pope Leo X in 1515, the tapestries cost about three and a half times the amount Michelangelo received for painting the Sistine Chapel's ceiling.   Continued...