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Raphael - VM - Marleen Hengelaar-Rookmaaker

Raphael: Christ's Charge to Peter

Feed my Lambs

by Marleen Hengelaar-Rookmaaker

In the year 1515 Raphael made this design on paper for a large tapestry for Pope Leo X. It depicts Jesus’ commission to Peter: “Feed my lambs.” This scene took place when Jesus appeared to his disciples for the third time after his resurrection.

Raphael combines the biblical narrative in John 21 with Matthew 16:18-19, where – some time before his resurrection – Jesus gives the keys of the kingdom of heaven to Peter. Raphael does this because Peter later betrayed Jesus and his position as leader had become insecure. By combining the two scenes we not only see Peter’s honour restored, but also the confirmation of his charge and special position as the rock on which Jesus will build his church.

Peter kneels. He makes himself small, conscious of his guilt. The other disciples do not seem to agree with what is happening here. Raphael emphasizes their rivalry. One of them even makes a gesture of wanting to stop Jesus. Others point to themselves. But Jesus pontifically points to Peter.

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Year B, 3rd Sunday of Easter. Readings: Micha 4:1-5; Psalm 98; 1 John 1:1-7; John 21:15-24.

Raphael: Christ's Charge to Peter (Matthew 16:18-19 & John 21:15-17), 1515, cartoon for a tapestry, gouache on paper on linen, 340 x 530 cm. Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Raphael made this design for a tapestry for Pope Leo X. The tapestry was woven in the workshop of Pieter van Aelst, a weaver living in Brussels. Presently it hangs in the Vatican Museums. The cartons, which are in the possession of the British Queen, are shown in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, England.

Raphael or Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino (1483-1520) was an Italian painter and architect of the High Renaissance. His work is admired for its clarity of form and ease of composition. Like Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, he was one of the great masters of that period. Raphael was enormously productive, running an unusually large workshop, and despite his death at 37 a large body of his work remains. Many of his works are found in the Apostolic Palace of The Vatican. His best-known work is The School of Athens in the Vatican Stanza della Segnatura. He was extremely influential in his lifetime and after.

ArtWay Visual Meditation 18 April 2021