Lot-Art had the pleasure to visit “Raffaello, 1520 – 1483”, the biggest exhibition ever devoted to this iconic High Renaissance painter displayed at the Scuderie del Quirinale in Rome, in collaboration with the Gallerie degli Uffizi in Florence. After its closing due to the COVID-19 lockdown, it reopened on 2 June 2020 and will run until 30 August 2020.
This large monographic exhibition, commemorating the 500th anniversary of Raphael’s death, draws attention to the artist’s Roman period, which is when he created the artworks for which he is now best known.
It is conceived as a fascinating journey in reverse of the brief life of Raphael across the most remarkable masterpieces of the artist. In fact, it begins with Raphael's death in Rome in 1520, and goes back in time to present the artist's works and life all the way back to his birth in Urbino in 1483.
The exhibition features over 170 artworks consisting of prestigious loans from 52 different museums and collections around the world, including pieces from the Louvre, the British Museum, the Uffizi Gallery, the Vatican Museums, the National Gallery of London, the Prado Museum, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, and others.
Lot-Art has selected the most interesting Raphael’s artworks, starting from the late oeuvres to his early iconic paintings.
Left: Raffaello Sanzio, Self-portrait with a friend, 1518-1519, oil on canvas, Paris, Musée du Louvre; Right: Raffaello Sanzio, Portrait of Baldassarre Castiglione, 1513, oil on canvas, Paris, Musée du Louvre
Raffaello Sanzio, Self-portrait with a friend, 1518-1519
oil on canvas, Paris, Musée du Louvre
The exhibition begins with Raphael’s mature artworks, like this famous painting depicting his self-portrait with a friend. The identity of the figure is unknown, but it has been suggested by some critics that he could represent his pupil Giulio Romano.
The facing forward of the artist and sideways look of the friend shows the versatility of the painter and the use of neutral colors, but differing tones and weight of the acrylic breathed life into the portrait.
Raffaello Sanzio, Portrait of Baldassarre Castiglione, 1513
oil on canvas, Paris, Musée du Louvre
The portrait's subject is Baldassare Castiglione, poet, humanist, and ambassador, whom Raphael first met as a young man in Urbino. His popular book "Il Cortegiano" (The Courtier) summed up the tastes and culture of the Renaissance, giving insights into the thinking and culture at the court of Urbino at the turn of the 16th century.
Castiglione is painted with a humane sensitivity characteristic of Raphael’s later portraits. The soft contours of his clothing and rounded beard express the subtlety of the subject’s personality. The great Flemish Baroque painter Peter Paul Rubens also admired this portrait so much that he made a copy of it.
Left: Raffaello Sanzio, Nude studies (with Sassi Torso), 1509-15010, pen and brown ink over leadpoint, Vienna, Albertina; Right:The Sacrifice at Lystra, tapestry woven in the Pieter van Aelst’s workshop, designed by Raffaello Sanzio, Vatican Museums
Raffaello Sanzio, Nude studies (with Sassi Torso), 1509-15010
pen and brown ink over leadpoint, Vienna, Albertina
Raphael aimed not only to emulate Antique sculpture but to surpass it, adding to its idealised naturalism a sense of the emotions experienced by real human beings. In this drawing, the Urbinate felt the need to compare the proportions in ancient sculptures with models from life. The marble torso held in a niche of the courtyard of Casa Sassi lost its stony rigidity and was tested alongside the sinuous limbs of a naked young man.
The Sacrifice at Lystra, tapestry woven in the Pieter van Aelst’s workshop
designed by Raffaello Sanzio, Vatican Museums
Pope Leo X commissioned a series of tapestries representing events from the life of Saint Peter and the life of Saint Paul to decorate the walls of the Sistine Chapel. They were designed by Raphael and crafted in Pieter van Aelst’s workshop in Brussels. This Flemish workshop was chosen for the difficult task of interpreting Raphael's cartoons and converting his ideas into tapestries, a totally different medium from that of the painted cartoons.
The tapestry on display represents “the Sacrifice at Lystra” and it shows how Raphael was influenced by a small first-century funerary altar, also from the Vatican collection, demonstrating his deep knowledge of ancient art.
Left: Raffaello Sanzio, Madonna of Divine Love, 1516, oil on wood panel, Napoli, Museo e Real Bosco di Capodimonte; Right: Raffaello Sanzio, Saint John the Baptist, 1518, Oil on canvas, Firenze, Gallerie degli Uffizi
Raffaello Sanzio, Madonna of Divine Love, 1516
oil on wood panel, Napoli, Museo e Real Bosco di Capodimonte
The Madonna of Divine Love was recalled by Giorgio Vasari in his account of Raphael’s life as being one of the most beautiful works of the great painter’s Roman period.
It depicts Saints Mary and Elizabeth with the baby Jesus and a genuflecting Saint John holding a cross of reeds. Jesus, assisted by Saint Elizabeth, appears to be blessing Saint John. In the shadows stands Saint Joseph.
The influence of Leonardo is clear in the pyramidal structure of the composition, but there are also references to the antique, for instance, the static figure of Joseph reminiscent of classical sculptures.
Raffaello Sanzio, Saint John the Baptist, 1518
oil on canvas, Firenze, Gallerie degli Uffizi
This monumental work shows Saint John the Baptist as a boy, standing in front of a cave and pointing out at his reed cross from which emanates a halo of light.
The painting demonstrates Raphael’s profound assimilation of Classicism, in fact in the twisted posture of Saint John the Baptism there is a clear reference to the statue of Laocoön. Painted around 1518 for Cardinal Colonna, it was then displayed in the Tribuna degli Uffizi from 1589.
Left: Raffaello Sanzio, Portrait of a woman as Venus (Fornarina), 1519-1520, oil on wood panel, Roma, Gallerie Nazionali di Arte Antica, Palazzo Barberini; Right: Raffaello Sanzio, Portrait of a Boy, 1513-1516, oil on wood panel, Madrid, Museo Nacional Thyssen
Raffaello Sanzio, Portrait of a woman as Venus (Fornarina), 1519-1520
oil on wood panel, Roma, Gallerie Nazionali di Arte Antica, Palazzo Barberini
This half-length sensuous portrait shows a seated nude woman against a dark landscape. The subtle use of chiaroscuro carries the woman forward, with her eyes gazing out at the viewer.
Many critics have identified the sitter as Margherita Luti, also known as “La Fornarina”, which means “the baker’s daughter”. According to the legend, she was the mistress and model of Raphael and it could be suggested by the fact that the painter signed his name on the subject’s left armband, the arm connected to one’s heart.
X-Ray analyses have shown that in the background was originally a Leonardesque-style landscape in place of the myrtle bush, which was sacred to Venus, goddess of love and passion. In order to the plants in the background, it has been suggested by scholars that the woman represented is Venus. Another characteristic trait that suggests this theory is the gesture of the figure which derived from the ancient statues of the Venus Pudica type.
Raffaello Sanzio, Portrait of a Boy, 1513-1516
oil on wood panel, Madrid, Museo Nacional Thyssen
The present painting shows an adolescent of a noble family whose origins are still unknown, but some hypotheses suggest that the subject in the work may be possibly a member of the Gonaga family. The fact that Raphael chose to portray the young man in such an emphatically dignified and spontaneous pose clearly points to his high lineage.
Left: Raffaello Sanzio, Madonna with Child and Infant Saint John the Baptist (Alba Madonna), 1510, oil on wood panel transferred to canvas, Washington, D.C, National Gallery of Art; Right: Raffaello Sanzio, Vigin with the Child (Madonna Tempi), 1507-1508, oil on poplar wood panel, Munich, Alte Pinakothek
Raffaello Sanzio, Madonna with Child and Infant Saint John the Baptist (Alba Madonna), 1510
oil on wood panel transferred to canvas, Washington, D.C, National Gallery of Art
In this "Madonna of Humility" the Virgin is seated directly on the ground instead of on a heavenly throne or a sumptuous cushion. The Christ Child's gesture of accepting the cross from the Baptist is the focus of attention of all three figures, and it refers to the Christ's sacrifice for mankind.
Raphael painted this painting while he was in Florence and showed a landscape backdrop that places the scene in a Tuscan setting.
In addition, the tondo, or round–format style, was popular in Florentine painting, and the influence of the Florentine masters Michelangelo and Leonardo is also apparent in the work.
Raffaello Sanzio, Vigin with the Child (Madonna Tempi), 1507-1508
oil on poplar wood panel, Munich, Alte Pinakothek
It is unknown who commissioned this panel, which is known by the name of the family who owned it in the 17th century.
This work is remarkable for the emotional reality conveyed to the relationship between Mother and Child. The two figures are in fact closely related, physically and psychologically, through their poses and intimate action.
The rapidly applied colour on the veil, where the paint has been modelled by brush strokes while still wet, shows Raphael using his materials much more freely than in his earlier panel paintings.
Left: Raffaello Sanzio, Portrait of Julius II, 1512, oil on wood panel, London, The National Gallery; Right: Raffaello Sanzio, Head of a girl, 1502-1503, black chalk, private collection
Raffaello Sanzio, Portrait of Julius II, 1512
oil on wood panel, London, The National Gallery
The painting shows the Pope Julius II seated with the tiara on his head, dressed in a white surplice and a purple mantle. The two acorn-shaped knobs on the back of the chair recall the Pope's coat of arms from Della Rovere Family. The intimacy and the power of the image indicate that Raphael deeply knew the Pope. The brilliant colours and the texural rendition of the fabrics point to the influence of contemporary Venetian portraiture.
Raffaello Sanzio, Head of a girl, 1502-1503
black chalk, private collection
This drawing permits a full appreciation of young Raphael’s technical skills. The influence of Perugino is still very clear, but the delicate face of the girl has the gracefulness of the Virgins painted by Raphael in his early career.
The face of the girl does not appear in any work by Raphael, even though signs that the outlines have been traced with a stylus are evidence that it could be a copy after a painting.
Left: Raffaello Sanzio, Young Woman with Unicorn, 1504-1505, oil on canvas transferred to wood panel, Rome, Galleria Borghese; Right: Raffaello Sanzio, Self-portrait, 1506-1508, oil on poplar wood panel, Florence, Gallerie degli Uffizi
Raffaello Sanzio, Young Woman with Unicorn, 1504-1505
oil on canvas transferred to wood panel, Rome, Galleria Borghese
The composition of this picture showing a three-quarter length portrait of a young woman in a loggia opening out onto a landscape, was apparently inspired by the Mona Lisa, painted by Leonardo between 1503 and 1506.
The unicorn personifies purity, in fact according to ancient beliefs a unicorn can catch only a virgin.
X-rays analyses have clearly shown that the unicorn was included afterward, and that the portrait was a picture of a youthful woman with a dog in her arms. The image of a dog in the 16th century was considered a symbol of marital fidelity. Such representations were usually requested on the event of the wedding, and in order to that, it has been suggested that the lady must have been a bride to be. So, the author himself changed the symbols, focusing on chastity instead of devotion.
Raffaello Sanzio, Self-portrait, 1506-1508
oil on poplar wood panel, Florence, Gallerie degli Uffizi
The last room of the exhibition shows one of the most iconic Raphael’s masterpieces, his self-portrait.
The young Raphael is here dressed simply and strictly, but at the same time elegant. From under the black robes stands a thin white stripe gate, hair tucked under a black beret. The soft light which pervades the portrait certainly recalls Leonardo, but the restless and problematic elements which Leonardo's complex figurative research present are absent. The intense representation of the youth shows no sign of internal tension. On the contrary, it communicates a serene observation of reality through a pictorial rendering rich in synthetic capacity.
This self-portrait of Raphael could be interpreted as an expression of the absolute balance and harmony of the Renaissance aesthetics: an ideal combination of the parts enhancing him as a brilliant young artist to whom everything is extraordinary, truly divine ease.
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