The Society for the History of Collecting Invites you to its Online Autumn Series

Rediscovering the Raphael Cartoons at the V&A
Dr. Ana Debenedetti | Curator of Paintings V&A

Monday 16 November, 6.30 pm GMT


The Raphael Cartoons are among the greatest treasures of the Renaissance in the UK. Shortly after his election in 1513, Pope Leo X commissioned Raphael to create a set of ten full-scale designs for a series of tapestries for the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican Palace, illustrating scenes from the lives of Saint Peter and Saint Paul. Once complete, the Cartoons – each measuring around 5 metres wide and 3.5 metres high – were sent to the workshop of merchant-weaver Pieter van Aelst in Brussels, which transformed the monumental designs into tapestries.

Seven of the Cartoons survive to this day, brought to Britain in the early 17th century by the Prince of Wales, later Charles I. They remained in the Royal Collection and were lent to the South Kensington Museum – now the V&A – by Queen Victoria in 1865 in memory of Prince Albert and have been on public display in the museum ever since.  They are set in one of the largest and most dramatic galleries, room 48a, better known as the Raphael Court, which was last refurbished from 1992 to 1996.

In November 2020, to mark the 500th anniversary of Raphael’s death, the Raphael Court was to reopen following a nine-month refurbishment project which includes not only a physical transformation of the space but also a new enhanced presentation fuelled by cutting-edge imagery provided by Factum Arte. New graphics and on-site digital experience will heighten the visitors’ viewing experience and enjoyment of these works of art. The reopening is only postponed due to the pandemic.

This lecture will present the new didactical approach and contextualisation of the Cartoons: their extraordinary journey from Raphael’s workshop in Rome to Brussels before reaching England. Detailed imagery will offer a glimpse of the new visitors’ experience which will be available on site: an insight into Raphael’s extraordinary creative process through interactive features that highlight the significance and status of the Cartoons in multiple ways to the present days.

Dr Ana Debenedetti is Curator of Paintings at the V&A, with responsibility for oil paintings, drawings, miniatures and watercolours. She was co-curator of the exhibition Constable: The Making of a Master (V&A, 2014-2015), and of Botticelli Reimagined as well as co-author of the accompanying catalogue (V&A, 2016) and editor of Botticelli Past and Present (UCL Press/V&A 2020). She is currently the lead curator of the Raphael Court renovation project and the editor and co-author of the accompanying book. Current projects include a book and display of the collection of French drawings in the V&A (Getty Paperproject) as well as a book on Botticelli Artist and Designer (Reaktion Books, autumn 2021).

To register for the event and get the zoom joining link please write to

Image Credit:  Recording the colour of the Raphael Cartoons at the V&A using panoramic composite photography. © Gabriel Scarpa for Factum Foundation

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