(b. ca. 1450, Waterloo, d. 1531, Bruxelles)

The Miraculous Draught of Fishes

c. 1519
Tapestry in silk and wool, with silver-gilt threads, height 490 cm, width 441 cm
Musei Vaticani, Vatican

The tapestry was made by Pieter van Edingen Aelst, after a cartoon by Raphael Sanzio.

Luke (5:1-11) recounts how Jesus, sitting in a boat, began teaching the multitudes on the shore. Then he asked Simon Peter to head towards deep water and cast the fishing nets again. Peter obeyed and they caught such a large amount of fish, that the nets began to break. They called for help and they filled both boats, so that they began to sink. Simon Peter fell down at Jesus' feet, saying "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!". For amazement had seized him and also James, son of Zebedee, his brother John and all their companions, because of the catch of fish which they had taken. And Jesus said to Simon "Do not fear, from now on you will be catching men."

In the background, one can recognize the Vatican hill, with the towers along the wall of Leo IV, and Saint Peter's under construction. The cranes in the foreground, symbols of vigilance, are contrasted with the seagulls that allude to sin and apostasy.

In the lower border two episodes in the life of Giovanni de'Medici (Pope Leo X) are depicted: on the left, his retinue, as he arrives in Rome for the conclave. On the right, the election of March 11, 1513. The border simulates a relief and is executed in chiaroscuro.

Raphael's designs revolutionized the tradition of tapestry weaving, for they required a faithful rendering of atmosphere, light, textures, and pictorial form that had never been seen in this medium before. Here, for the first time, the usual monochrome background, or one depicting flowers and small ornaments, was abandoned in favour of a genuine pictorial space, in which the figures could move about.