The Raphael Cartoons were commissioned by Pope Leo X in 1515 and are among the greatest treasures of the High Renaissance. Painted by Raphael (1483-1520) and his assistants, they are full-scale designs for tapestries that were made to cover the lower walls of the Vatican's Sistine Chapel. The tapestries depict the Acts of St Peter and St Paul, the founders of the early Christian Church.
Between 1516 and 1521, the compositions were woven into tapestries at the workshop of Pieter van Aelst in Brussels, the main centre for tapestry production in Europe. In 1623 the cartoons were brought to England by the Prince of Wales, later Charles I. From 1865 onwards, they have been on loan from the Royal Collection to the V&A.
During the 18th and early 19th centuries, Raphael reached the peak of his reputation, and was widely regarded as the greatest painter in history. Consequently, the Raphael Cartoons became some of the most famous, and widely imitated, paintings in the world.
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