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Cartoon for a tapestry - The Miraculous Draught of Fishes (Luke 5: 1-11)
  • The Miraculous Draught of Fishes (Luke 5: 1-11)
    Raphael, born 1483 - died 1520
  • Enlarge image

The Miraculous Draught of Fishes (Luke 5: 1-11)

  • Object:

    Cartoon for a tapestry

  • Place of origin:

    [Italy] (made)

  • Date:

    about 1515-1516 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Raphael, born 1483 - died 1520 (artist)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Bodycolour on paper laid onto canvas

  • Credit Line:

    On loan from the collection of Her Majesty the Queen

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Raphael, room 48a

The Miraculous Draught of Fishes (Luke 5: 1-11)

The Raphael cartoons are designs for tapestries and were commissioned from Raphael by Pope Leo X (1513-21) in 1515. The tapestries were intended to hang in the Sistine Chapel in Rome, built by one of Leo's predecessors Pope Sixtus IV (1471-84). The Chapel was primarily intended for the use of the Pope and the Papal chapel, the body of clergy and Laity immediately surrounding him. The decoration of the chapel under Sixtus dealt largely with the theme of the Pope's authority. The tapestries continued this theme, illustrating scenes from the lives of St. Peter and St. Paul who were seen as the founders of the Christian Church, and the sources of the Pope's authority and power. They had in addition woven borders showing scenes from Leo's life, also designed by Raphael: the cartoons for these have not survived.

In this cartoon Christ tells Peter to cast his net into the water whereupon he and his fellow apostles make a miraculous catch. The story refers to Peter's role as "fisher of men", who converts others to Christianity. It also demonstrates his humility as he kneels before Christ to acknowledge His divinity, and confess his own sinfulness.

For further information on the Raphael Tapestry Cartoons please see the V&A website under : Collections, Paintings & Drawings, Paintings & Drawings Features, Raphael Cartoons.

Physical description

Cartoon for a tapestry

Place of Origin

[Italy] (made)


about 1515-1516 (made)


Raphael, born 1483 - died 1520 (artist)

Materials and Techniques

Bodycolour on paper laid onto canvas


Height: 320 cm, Width: 390 cm

Descriptive line

Raphael Cartoon The Miraculous Draught of Fishes (Luke 5: 1-11)

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

100 Great Paintings in The Victoria & Albert Museum.London: V&A, 1985, p.34
The following is the full text of the entry:

"Raphael 1483-1520
Italian (Roman) School
Body colour on paper laid on to canvas, 319 x 399 cm
On loan from the collection of Her Majesty the Queen.

The series of seven tapestry cartoons by Raphael and his studio in the Museum, depicting scenes from the lives of Sts. Peter and Paul, constitute the greatest surviving body of High Renaissance painting outside Italy. The tapestries were intended to be hung in the Sistine Chapel on feast days beneath the 15th-century frescoes by Perugino and others and ultimately beneath the newly frescoed Sistine ceiling, completed by Raphael's arch-rival, Michelangelo, in 1512.
Raphael had already completed some of his most famous work in the Vatican - most notably, The School of Athensand Parnassus in the Stanza della Segnatura - when Leo X commissioned him to design tapestries for the Sistine Chapel in 1515.
The classical style of his maturity was already formed, but it was the first time that he had to compete in the public eye directly with the work of Michelangelo, and he responded with a series of designs of a grandeur appropriate to their size and situation. Of these, The Miraculous Draught of Fishes perhaps the most approachable, combining as it does something of the softness and tenderness of his earlier manner, best seen in the marvellously luminous landscape, with the heroism of his figure-style of his last years. The scene is a depiction of the episode from St. Luke (V, 1-10), where Christ miraculously helps the fishermen fill their nets and intimates to St. Peter that he will soon be catching men instead of fish - an allusion to the role of the Papacy, as the successor of St. Peter, in the cure of souls. The fish and the birds are depicted with a fidelity that enables them to be precisely identified, but probably do not appear simply for their narrative interest and may have a symbolic meaning; for instance, the cranes in the foreground were considered to be symbols of vigilance or safe-keeping in Medieval and Renaissance thought, and the ravens above of heresy or apostasy.

It should be noted that Christ gesticulates with his left hand. This is because the weavers, in making the actual tapestry, cut the cartoon into strips and wove the tapestry from the back looking at the original design below. Thus the finished tapestry is in reverse of the artist's cartoon and Raphael had to allow for this in designing the cartoons. The word 'cartoon' itself has only had a humorous connotation since the 19th century when Punch published caricatures of the cartoons for the wall decorations of the new Palace of Westminster. Before that it simply meant a full-scale finished drawing or design immediately preparatory to the final picture or tapestry.
The cartoons came to England when Charles I purchased them for the new tapestry works at Mortlake. They survived the dispersal of his collection under the Commonwealth, being retained for the service of the State, along with Mantegna's Triumph of Caesar at Hampton Court. Since 1865 they have been on loan to the Museum from the Royal Collection.

Howard Coutts"




Watercolour drawing


Paintings; Tapestry; Biblical Imagery; Drawings; Christianity; Designs

Collection code


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