Michelangelo had completed the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in 1512 to universal acclaim, at the same time Raphael was busy decorating the Stanze rooms in the Vatican. These two famous artists harboured a rivalry that was so intense that Michelangelo's attitude to the younger Raphael bordered on hatred. Raphael was aware that the location for the finished tapestries was the Sistine Chapel and that comparisons with his designs and Michelangelo's ceiling were inevitable. He took great care when preparing the cartoons and actually produced a depth of colour that was not possible to reproduce in a tapestry.
The Bruges workshop of Pieter van Aelst in Brussels was chosen for the difficult task of interpreting Raphael's cartoons and converting his ideas into tapestries, a totally different medium from that of the painted cartoons.
The ten tapestries were woven between 1516 and 1521 and seven of the completed works were hung in the Sistine Chapel for the first time on St Stephen's Day 26th December 1519. This is possibly the only time that Raphael saw any of the finished tapestries in their intended location, he died on April 6th 1520 at the age of 37.
The ten subjects for these works are:-
The ten works are shown on this site over ten separate pages, links are located at the bottom of the individual pages.
The Miraculous Draught of Fishes. Cartoon. Royal Collection England (s)
The weaving process produced a mirror image of Raphael's designs, this is because the weavers worked on the back of the tapestry with strips of the cartoon facing them. Considering that the communication between the artist and the weavers was sparse at best, the results are remarkable.