O FISH! : ‘Miraculous Draught of Fish (es)’ by Raphael Sanzio da Urbino (1515)

 Out of the creative energy that exploded 16th century Renaissance was born Raphael Sanzio da Urbino. It is from his father that he learnt the art of painting and experienced intellectual court life in the native town of Italy. However the sudden demise of his father compelled him to enter into the workshop of Urbino’s leading contemporary artist Pietro Perugino. Raphael soon surpassed his master in skill and technique and joined Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo to form the ‘traditional trinity’ of the Renaissance. His impeccable work earned him the title ‘The Prince of Painters.’

This painting, in consideration dwells on the ‘Prince of Peace’.  The scene is set across Lake Gennesaret also known as the Lake of Galilee. As Jesus treads along its sandy shores, he spots the fisherman Peter amidst his daily grind. Jesus gets into his boat and preaches to the crowds. Next He invites Peter to sail beyond the shallow waters into the deep for a catch. At first the seasoned fisherman hesitates ‘for they had worked all night and had caught nothing.’ However later, Peter in his goodness, hearkens to the words of the peculiar preacher and the rest was history.

The nets were so full that they began to break, the boats were so full that they began to sink. It was an invasion of grace. Overwhelmed with wonder and filled with awe, Peter at once senses the Divine at work in His humble ark. Trembling, he falls to his knees and says “Leave me, Lord for I am a sinful man.”

Raphael captures this adorable moment with utmost integrity in his cartoon titled ‘Miraculous Draught of Fish (es)’. In 1515 Pope Leo X commissioned Raphael to design ten draperies intended to decorate the lower parts of the walls of the Sistine Chapel. Raphael thus created cartoons to be replicated on the wool and silk draperies which were manufactured in the workshop of Pieter van Aelst’s in Brussels. Seven cartoons survive till date and form a part of the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

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