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Prince Albert and Raphael

Discover Prince Albert’s passion for the work of Raphael

A cartoon for the tapestry of Christ's Charge to Peter for the Sistine Chapel. Christ is standing on the left, pointing behind himself to a flock of sheep and in front to the keys held by Peter, who is kneeling. The other disciples stand in a group at the
Christ's Charge to Peter ©

Prince Albert’s eldest daughter Victoria, Crown Princess of Prussia, made her first visit to Italy almost a year after her father’s sudden and unexpected death on 14 December 1861. After visiting the Vatican, the Crown Princess wrote to her mother Queen Victoria: 

How the Raphaels make me think of beloved Papa; my eyes often fill with tears when I look at them – they seem to me to belong all to him – all that is good, great, right or beautiful must ever be in my mind identified with him.

Albert himself encountered Raphael in Italy when he was around the same age as his daughter. He spent several months exploring the artistic treasures of Florence and Rome during the winter of 1839. Although the Prince never bought a painting or drawing either by or attributed to Raphael (which would have been beyond his financial means), he expressed his love of Raphael in many other creative ways. Notably, there was the ambitious and forward-thinking collection of over 5,000 reproductions – prints and photographs – after Raphael’s works that Albert compiled as an art-historical resource which was known as the Raphael Collection, and which survives intact in a purpose-built cabinet in the Print Room at Windsor Castle. The Prince also commissioned and collected a substantial number of works of fine and decorative art – paintings, furniture, sculpture – which paid homage to Raphael, patronised contemporary artists such as William Dyce who were strongly influenced by the Renaissance master, and drew inspiration from Raphael and the Raphaelesque in the many decorative projects within the royal residences that he directed.

Prince Albert also shared his passion with his wife Queen Victoria, giving her Raphael-related works of art as gifts on important personal occasions including her birthday and their wedding anniversary. In turn Victoria herself commissioned works for her husband which reflected his deep love of the artist. After Albert’s death, his librarians – who worked closely with him on the formation of the Raphael Collection – stated that Raphael was the artist for which the Prince had 

always entertained the strongest predilection.