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Raphael's Fine Art Tapestry in the Sistine Chapel | The Miraculous Draught of Fishes

 Raphael's Miraculous Draught of Fish, fine art tapestry in the Sistine Chapel

The Miraculous Draught of Fishes
c. 1519, by Raphael Sanzio
Fine Art Tapestry in silk and wool,
with silver-gilt threads,
height 490 cm, width 441 cm
Musei Vaticani, Vatican, Rome

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Italian Renaissance artist Raphael Sanzio designed a cartoon for his fine art tapestry of The Miraculous Draught of Fishes, then sent the design to Flemish art tapestry weaver Pieter van Edingen Aelst in Brussels, Belgium where the best fine art tapestry wall hangings were made. Raphael's fine art tapestry alludes to the building of the Christian church, that symbolism reflected in the distance where one can see Saint Peter's basilica under construction. Also symbolic in this fine art tapestry are the cranes in the foreground which represent vigilance, and the seagulls which allude to sin and apostasy. On the bottom of this fine art tapestry is a simulated grisaille frieze featuring events from the life of Medici Pope Leo X, depicting his arrival for the papal conclave in Rome (left) and his formal election to the papacy in 1513 (right). Leo X commissioned Raphael Sanzio to execute several fine art tapestry designs for the Sistine Chapel, the pope's own private chapel.

Raphael's fine art tapestry of The Miraculous Draught of Fishes of ca. 1519 recounts a biblical episode from Luke (5:1-11) in which Jesus speaks to the masses on shore, teaching from a boat. Depicted in this fine art tapestry is the figure of Simon Peter who kneels before Christ pleading that Jesus leave him behind as the overloaded boat is sinking, due to the catch of a miraculous draught (haul) of fishes. Christ reassures Simon Peter not to worry, that from now on Simon Peter will be catching men.

Raphael's fine art tapestry designs are revolutionary to fine art tapestry weaving methods in Italian Renaissance art, abandoning the more traditional crowded floral or monochromatic fine art tapestry designs. Similar to his own fresco paintings, this fine art tapestry of The Miraculous Draught of Fishes gives us a more true pictorial rendering where figures move about freely in space with natural light and atmosphere

Brenda Harness, Art Historian

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