Woven at the leading English tapestry workshop of Mortlake in London, these tapestries show events from the life of Christ taken from cartoons by the Renaissance master, Raphael. These were popular designs and several sets were commissioned. They have been part of the decoration of the room since the mid-18th century, but have lost their original borders and been cut to fit the available space. Their rich colours have faded over the last 300 years. The present frames around them were introduced by the 6th Duke around 1830.
The three tapestries on display depict four separate events from the Acts of the Apostles, the fifth book of the New Testament. These include scenes from 'the Death of Ananias' (Acts, Chapter 5: 1–6) and 'Christ's Charge to St. Peter' (Acts, Chapter 21: 15–17); the third tapestry is in fact two tapestries joined together, with scenes from 'The Healing of the Lame Man' (Acts, Chapter 3: 1–11) and 'The Sacrifice at Lystra' (Acts, Chapter 14: 8–18).
The cartoons that these tapestries are based upon were originally commissioned from Raphael by Pope Leo X for a set of tapestry panels intended for the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican. On becoming part of the British Royal Collection in 1623, the cartoons were transferred to Hampton Court and then to the South Kensington Museum (now the Victoria and Albert Museum), in 1865. The cartoons can now be viewed at the Victoria and Albert Museum in the Raphael Court.