Raphael – The Power of Renaissance Images
The Dresden Tapestries and their Impact
On the occasion of the 500th anniversary of Raphael’s (1483-1520) death, the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister is presenting an extensive special exhibition on the Dresden tapestries of the important painter and architect of the Italian High Renaissance.
At the end of February, after seven years of partial closure, the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister und Skulpturensammlung until 1800 in the Semperbau re-opened over a celebratory weekend. Just a few weeks later, the Sempergalerie had to be closed due to the Corona pandemic. The museum has now been open to the public again since 5 May 2020.
Despite the difficult situation, the Gemäldegalerie managed to mark the 2020 anniversary of Raphael’s death with the special exhibition “Raphael – The Power of Renaissance Images. The Dresden Tapestries and their Impact”, featuring significant international objects on loan, on show from 6 June.
From 1515, Raphael (Raffaello Sanzio) was commissioned by Pope Leo X to create ten large-format cartoons; designs which were used in Brussels to weave the tapestries for the Sistine Chapel. Now found in the Vatican Museums, these were hung for the first time at Christmas in 1519. Raphael’s cartoons, today in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, were purchased in Genoa in 1623 by the future King Charles I of England, who sent them to the Mortlake tapestry workshop for use in weaving further series. The series of six wall hangings which came into the collection of Elector Friedrich August I of Saxony (Augustus the Strong) in 1728 were also made there.
Three are dedicated to Saint Peter, the other three to Saint Paul. They depict Bible scenes, such as the Acts of the Apostles by the magician Elymas, who was struck blind when he tried to prevent the governor of Cyprus from believing in the words of the apostles Paul and Barnabas.
The exhibition focuses on Raphael’s tapestries and designs and their far-reaching influence on later artists as late as the 19th century, with selected examples of how the works were reflected. The five Dresden Tapestries presented are complemented by two loans from the Mobilier national institution in Paris, whose border designs are clearly similar to the Dresden hangings. The presentation of the tapestries is supplemented by more than 50 paintings, sculptures, prints, and drawings, including works by Raphael, Nicolas Poussin, Peter Paul Rubens, Rembrandt, Anthony van Dyck, Marcantonio Raimondi, and Diana Scultori. Antique sculptures in the exhibition also illustrate the influence which the artistic metropolis of Rome had on Raphael’s understanding of form.
For the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, these woven works of art play a central role in the presentation. Originally exhibited in the Tribuna of the Semperbau, from 1960 the tapestries were presented in what was then the Gobelin Gallery, now the Winckelmann Forum. From 1992 to 1999, financial support from the Rudolf-August Oetker-Foundation enabled them to be comprehensively restored, but they have not been part of the permanent exhibition since 2008. This exhibition makes them accessible to the public again after twelve years.
“Raphael’s imagery has always been impressive: this gifted artist of the Italian Renaissance mastered the art of highly expressive images – pictures which seem to “speak”.
The sketches in preparation for the tapestry cartoons demonstrate how he studied the human body in different positions, then transferred the narrative structure to cleverly crafted images and landscapes. It has been possible to present some of these sketches in the exhibition, enabling viewers as it were to peer over Raphael’s shoulder and watch him compose his pictures”, commented Stephan Koja, Director of the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister und Skulpturensammlung bis 1800.
Numerous loans from Germany and abroad will be on display, drawings by Raphael and his workshop, tapestries and important paintings by Rubens, Poussin and Garofalo from Paris, London, Stockholm and Vienna. From 14 November 2020 to 7 March 2021, the exhibition will be presented in a slightly different form under the title “Raphael – The Power of Renaissance Images: The Dresden Tapestries and their Impact” at the Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio.
To accompany the special exhibition, the publication “Raphael – The Power of Renaissance Images. The Dresden Tapestries and their Impact” will be published in a German and an English version by the Sandstein Verlag and Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, Stephan Koja in collaboration with Larissa Mohr, 336 pages, €48, museum edition €34, ISBN 978-3-95498-552-4.
Raphael – Power of Renaissance Images
The Dresden Tapestries and their Impact
daily 10—17 , Monday closed