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The Tapestries in The Vatican – 2

With this 2nd article, we will continue elaborating details and interesting facts related to The Tapestries of the Vatican. Continuing where we last ended It is now also important to note that, while the Raphael pieces tend to be the overwhelming draw for visitors to the Gallery of Tapestries, the collection depicting the life and times of the papacy of Urban VIII are excellent examples in and of themselves of the Barberini school (popular between 1627 to 1683). 

While the subject matter itself is not the most exciting, the techniques and development of the art on display in these tapestries is worthy of note to historians and those who appreciate aesthetic history.  

As for the Raphael tapestries, their subject matter is largely concerned with the life of Christ. The last tapestry on this side of the gallery is actually not a Raphael nor is it related to Christ but is, instead, a Flemish tapestry showing the Ides of March and the death of Julius Caesar. Aside from that later example, the tapestries on the left side of the gallery are by master Raphael himself.      

Visitors are universally awestruck by the tapestries’ collective ability to portray vivid and detailed scenes from the life of Christ. Indeed, this “painted” effect is likely intended as the young Raphael knew his work would be shown along with and competing against that of his older rival Michelangelo.  

Though he is now considered among the most important artists of all time, if not the most important artist of all time, the younger Raphael felt he had something to prove in his commission for the tapestries.

Naturally, the 12 tapestries showing the life of Christ are presented in chronological order, beginning with his childhood and leading through to his ministry, crucifixion, and resurrection. Some of the more macabre tapestries depicting the Massacre of Innocents show Herod’s slaughter of the children of Jerusalem upon hearing that the Messiah was born. 

Moving along from here we eventually come to the Resurrection of Christ tapestry which, as a capstone to the narrative, is both exquisite in its details as well as its explosive use of color. Beside this tapestry is the Supper at Emmaus where Christ reveals himself to two of his other disciples after his resurrection. 

Visitors will find it pretty difficult to maneuver around the gallery as it is typically quite crowded but those that are able to walk past the resurrection tapestry will notice that the Christ figure’s eyes follow them as they move along.