The Miraculous Draught of Fishes (cartoon for the Sistine Chapel) (1515) by Raphael

“The Miraculous Draught of Fishes” is a significant artwork by Raphael, created in 1515 during the High Renaissance. This religious painting is a part of the Sistine Chapel series and is currently housed within the Vatican Museums in the Vatican. Raphael’s creation is esteemed as a masterful depiction that reflects the canonical art and cultural sensibilities of its time.

The artwork vividly portrays a biblical scene from the Gospel, where Jesus Christ performs a miracle before the eyes of his future disciples. In the scene, two boats are depicted with their occupants on the Lake of Gennesaret. On the left, we see a group of fishermen working with an overwhelming haul of fish; their bodies are rendered with anatomical precision, showcasing Raphael’s virtuosity in capturing human form and tension. Their clothing, with its rich folds and colors, adds to the dynamism and realism of the scene.

To the right, Jesus sits calmly in one of the boats, gesturing serenely. Before him, one of the disciples, identified traditionally as Saint Peter, shows an attitude of worship and astonishment as he kneels on the bow of the boat. The surrounding landscape unfolds into the background, inviting viewers to take in the broader setting of rolling hills, a distant city, and other onlookers on the shore, thus embedding the miracle within an expansive, tranquil environment.

Above, the sky is occupied by birds, the detailed renderings of which contribute to the sense of a living scene. The waters below mirror the human activity and divine interaction, while also providing a realm for the naturalistic depiction of birds on the search for fish, seamlessly integrating wildlife with the miraculous events taking place.

The composition is strengthened by the clear diagonal lines formed by the placement of the figures and boats, leading the viewers’ eyes across the artwork, from the world of men to the divine presence of Jesus, and back again, symbolizing the connection between heaven and earth facilitated by the miracle.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *