Raphael tapestries at Columbus Museum of Art

As part of a historic exhibition, the Columbus Museum of Art will bring a set of six important tapestries designed by Raphael from the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister (GAM) in Dresden, Germany, to the U.S. for the first time. These tapestries are woven from the same Raphael designs used to create the tapestries for the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican in 1515-16. Raphael—The Power of Renaissance Imagery: The Dresden Tapestries and their Impact will be on view at the Columbus Museum of Art in Columbus, Ohio, the exclusive U.S. venue, from July 17 to October 30, 2022. The exhibition, which will be accompanied by a scholarly catalogue published in German and English, demonstrates the enduring influence of Raphael’s designs and the tapestries across eras and realms.

Raphael—The Power of Renaissance Imagery: The Dresden Tapestries and their Impact is organized by the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden (Old Masters Gallery, Dresden State Art Collections) in partnership with CMA. The project originated as part of the international celebration of the 500th anniversary of Raphael’s death.

The Dresden works were woven in England in the 17th century at the noted Mortlake Tapestry manufactory. The production of the tapestries in England is a direct consequence of the acquisition of Raphael’s original cartoons (full-scale Renaissance preparatory drawings for a tapestry) by the Prince of Wales (later Charles I) for the British royal collection in 1623. Charles I subsequently commissioned sets to be woven in the Mortlake manufactory, England’s recently founded tapestry factory located just outside London.

The tapestries were brought to Germany in the 18th century by Augustus the Strong (Elector of Saxony and King of Poland). The tapestries were restored in 1991-2003 by Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister and debuted at the opening of the exhibition at GAM in 2020. The Columbus presentation, which was delayed by the pandemic, marks the first time they have ever traveled to the United States.

Commissioned by Pope Leo X, in part to reinforce the authority of the papacy, the tapestries and cartoons from which they are created depict episodes in the lives of Saints Peter and Paul. Raphael’s works consist of monumental figures set against backdrops of landscape or architecture. Considered by many to rank among the greatest paintings ever produced, these masterworks and the tapestries woven from them are renowned for their figures’ magisterial poses, elegant ensemble groupings, harmonious and dynamic compositions, and dramatic narratives presented with remarkable clarity and economy of means. Their importance to European tapestry design was also profound. The tapestries represent a major stylistic shift, from an aesthetic based on flattened space and decorative pattern – medieval in derivation – to the simulation of illusionistic, three-dimensional space populated by towering figures, bringing tapestry design in closer formal alignment with painting. Raphael’s cartoons are represented in the exhibition with two full-scale facsimiles, created specifically for Dresden and Columbus.

Mortlake Tapestry Manufactory (after designs by Raphael), Feed My Sheep (Christ's Charge to Peter), After 1625. Tapestry, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, gal. no. B2.
Mortlake Tapestry Manufactory (after designs by Raphael), Feed My Sheep (Christ’s Charge to Peter), After 1625. Tapestry, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, gal. no. B2.

In addition to the tapestries, exhibition highlights will include two drawings by Raphael that were studies for his cartoons; works by Renaissance and Baroque masters influenced by the tapestries, such as Albrecht Dürer, Nicolas Poussin and Peter Paul Rubens; 19th-century works that illustrate the tapestries’ continued impact; and portraits of the powerful individuals involved in producing and acquiring the Dresden tapestries, notably Charles I of England and Augustus the Strong.

The exhibition marks the third collaboration between CMA and the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister. In 1999 CMA presented the exhibition Ages of Splendor and Enlightenment: Eighteenth-Century Paintings from the Old Masters Picture Gallery, consisting of works from the GAM’s permanent collection. In 2018 the GAM lent the Columbus Museum of Art a Venetian masterpiece, which served as the centerpiece of the exhibition Titian’s Lady in White: A Renaissance Mystery. This monographic installation was dedicated to the iconography, restoration, provenance and cultural context of one of Titian’s greatest portraits.

About Columbus Museum of Art  

CMA is where creativity and the daily life of its community intersect and thrive, as the Museum champions new and different ways of thinking and doing. CMA celebrates the creative process and sets the stage for people to experience art, ideas and relationships that spark creativity and nurture collective, courageous imagination.

CMA’s collection includes outstanding late 19th- and early 20th-century American and European modern works of art, grounded in the Ferdinand Howald and the Howard D. and Babette L. Sirak Collections. The Museum houses the world’s largest collections of works by beloved Columbus-connected artists Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson, Elijah Pierce and George Bellows; and acclaimed collections such as The Photo League and the Philip and Suzanne Schiller Collection of American Social Commentary Art.

The recently established Scantland Collection of the Columbus Museum of Art also continues CMA’s dedication to showcasing the art of our time. 

No Comments Yet.