The Raphael Cartoons are seven large cartoons for tapestries, belonging to the British Royal Collection but since 1865 on loan to the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, designed by the High Renaissance painter Raphael in 1515–16 and showing scenes from the Gospels and Acts of the Apostles. They are the only surviving members of a set of ten cartoons commissioned by Pope Leo X for tapestries for the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican Palace, which are still (on special occasions) hung below Michelangelo's famous ceiling. Reproduced in the form of prints, they rivalled Michelangelo's ceiling as the most famous and influential designs of the Renaissance, and were well known to all artists of the Renaissance and Baroque. Admiration of them reached its highest pitch in the 18th and 19th centuries; they were described as "the Parthenon sculptures of modern art".
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... Raphael had no knowledge of printmaking himself, and was probably too busy to want to learn the techniques, but he was the most successful of the Italians in spreading his fame through prints ... Raphael made many drawings solely as designs for prints, and the workshop made a large number of prints, apparently working always from drawings rather than the finished work, of Raphael's paintings ... All Raimondi and Veneziano's prints of Raphael's designs in Raphael's lifetime were based on drawings, according to both Landau and Pons ...
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“I take such men to be inspired. I fancy that this moment Shakespeare in heaven ranks with Gabriel Raphael and Michael. And if another Messiah ever comes twill be in Shakespeares person.”
—Herman Melville (18191891)