The story of Raphael's tapestries in the Ducal Palace in Mantua told in an exhibition

From Oct. 24, 2020 to Feb. 7, 2021, the Ducal Palace in Mantua is dedicating an exhibition to Raphael's tapestries with the Stories of Saints Peter and Paul.

From October 24, 2020 to February 7, 2021, the Ducal Palace Museum Complex in Mantua presents the exhibition Raphael Weft and Warp. The Tapestries of the Ducal Palace in Mantua, as part of the celebrations of the 500th anniversary of Raphael’s death. Starting from the preparatory cartoons made by the Urbino genius’ workshop, the cycle of tapestries with the Stories of Saints Peter and Paul conserved at the Ducal Palace was born: these huge painted sheets commissioned by Pope Leo X, partly conserved at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, were used to make the famous cycle destined to adorn the walls of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican. The tapestries conserved in Mantua follow the Roman ones chronologically, and constitute some of the most expensive and prestigious pieces in the Gonzaga art collection.

The exhibition will display to the public a series of documents related to the history of the cycle, from its purchase by Ercole Gonzaga to more recent twentieth-century events. These moments include the destination first to the city cathedral, then to the Basilica Palatina of Santa Barbara, the late 18th-century setting, with the renovation of the Appartamento Verde by the neoclassical architect Paolo Pozzo, and finally the events between the 19th and 20th centuries, when the tapestries were transferred to Austria and then brought back to Italy thanks to the diplomatic activities following World War I. In the so-called little chapel, the relationship between Raphael and the Gonzaga family will be highlighted: the lords of Mantua, as art lovers, courted the artist for a long time, trying to obtain one of his autographed works. The relationship with antiquity is central to the precious letter written by Baldessar Castiglione and addressed by Raphael to Pope Leo X, which will be on display in the exhibition and is usually kept in the State Archives of Mantua.

For the exhibition, theAppartamento degli Arazzi will also see a new lighting system using newer technologies.

“We are proud to be part of the Raphael celebrations program,” said Emanuela Daffra, interim director of the Ducal Palace, "with a special initiative linked to an extraordinary and perhaps not adequately known core of the permanent collection by the public. The Raphael Weft and Warp exhibition will shine the spotlight on these extraordinary artifacts with an occasion, first of all curation and then exhibition, whose effects will reverberate-with open restoration and a new lighting system-on the permanent museum itinerary. And I hope that the non-ephemeral results will include widespread awareness about the value of these kinds of works, which are often underestimated in relation to painting, but in this specific case played a fundamental role in the dissemination of Raphael’s figurative inventions."

The public also has the opportunity, starting in July 2020, to see live the open restoration site of Raphael’s tapestries from the cycle with the Stories of Saints Peter and Paul. The restoration work is entrusted to the firm of Tiziana Benzi of Piacenza and is being carried out with contributions from the National Committee for the Celebration of the 500th Anniversary of the Death of Raphael Sanzio (MiBACT) and valuable support from Fondazione Bam.

Pictured is the tapestry depicting the Miraculous Fishing.

The story of Raphael's tapestries in the Ducal Palace in Mantua told in an exhibition
The story of Raphael's tapestries in the Ducal Palace in Mantua told in an exhibition

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