Portraits by Raphael
Raphael is an Italian High Renaissance painter and architect of the Florentine school, celebrated for the perfection and grace of his art. His work is admired for its clarity of form and ease of composition and for its visual achievement of the Neoplatonic ideal of human grandeur. Raphael is one of the most famous artists of High Renaissance and one of the greatest influences in the history of Western art.
Paintings by Raphael
- Lady with a Unicorn (1505)
- Young Man with an Apple (1505)
- Portrait of Agnolo Doni (1506)
- Portrait of a Woman (La Donna Gravida) (1506)
- Self-Portrait (1506)
- Portrait of a Woman (La Muta) (1507)
- Portrait of a Cardinal (1511)
- Portrait of Julius II (1512)
- Portrait of Balthazar Castiglione (1515)
- Cardinal Tommaso Inghirami (1516)
- Portrait of Cardinal Bibbiena (1516)
- Woman with a Veil (La Donna Velata) (1516)
- Self-Portrait with a Friend (1519)
- Portrait of a Young Woman (La Fornarina) (1519)
- La Fornarina (Detail) (1519)
- Pope Leo X with Cardinals Giulio de' Medici and Luigi de' Rossi (Detail 2) (1519)
- Pope Leo X with Cardinals Giulio de' Medici and Luigi de' Rossi (1519)
Lady with a Unicorn (1505)
The painting earlier was attributed to Perugino, Ridolfo Ghirlandaio, Granacci. At the time (in 1928) of the identification of the artist as Raphael, the painting had been heavily painted over to represent a St Catherine. After careful cleaning, the perfect geometry and detachment of this courtly figure were revealed, although her identity is not known. Present day critics attribute the work to Raphael, referring it to 1505 and to the Florentine environment. It can, in fact, be inserted among the portraits of that period, for it represents an apex in the artist's stylistic development. The fullness of the well constructed figure is set apart from a vast landscape background, inspired by Da Vinci but executed with the clarity typical of Raphael. Piero della Francesca and Perugino influences have also been noted in the style of the painting.
Young Man with an Apple (1505)
The Portrait of a Young Man with an Apple (1505) in the Uffizi has been associated with the paintings representing St Michael and St George. It is difficult to perceive the hand of the artist in the face which, although beautifully drawn, lacks the physiognomic characteristics which typify Raphael's subjects. But the overall attention to the analytical effects of Flemish art leads us to attribute the work to Raphael, since his attention was turned to the production of this school precisely in these years. Furthermore, the compositional harmony which is a principal element of Raphael's art is visible in the compact forms of the solidly conceived portrait.
The subject has been associated with Francesco Maria Della Rovere, and possibly correctly: the portrait reached Florence with the Della Rovere patrimony in 1631 on the marriage of Vittoria Della Rovere to the future Grand Duke Ferdinand II.
Portrait of Agnolo Doni (1506)
The merchant Agnolo Doni married Maddalena Strozzi in 1503, but Raphael's portraits were probably executed in 1506, the period in which the painter studied the art of Da Vinci most closely. The composition of the portraits resembles that of the Mona Lisa: the figures are presented in the same way in respect to the picture plane, and their hands, like those of the Mona Lisa, are placed on top of one another. But the low horizon of the landscape background permits a careful assessment of the human figure by providing a uniform light which defines surfaces and volumes. This relationship between landscape and figure presents a clear contrast to the striking settings of Leonardo, which communicate the threatening presence of nature.
But the most notable characteristic that distinguishes these portraits from those of Da Vinci is the overall sense of serenity which even the close attention to the materials of clothes and jewels (which draw one's attention to the couple's wealth) is unable to attenuate. Every element - even those of secondary importance - works together to create a precise balance.
These works, linked not only by the kinship of the subjects, but also by their evident stylistic homogeneity, mark the beginning of Raphael's artistic maturity.
The two portraits, which Vasari mentions, were originally in a hinged frame so that they could be opened and closed like a book. In a portrait diptych like this, a form very popular in the Renaissance, the man's portrait was usually on the left, the more important side heraldically.
Portrait of a Woman (La Donna Gravida) (1506)
An important aspect of Raphael's Florentine stay is the compositional evolution which his painting underwent. Perugino's compositions - like those of all Quattrocento masters - were based on linear rhythms. In Florence Raphael transformed his compositional type in a constructive-monumental sense. This transformation is recognizable mainly in the human figures, who are still harmonically enclosed in geometric schemes and accompanied by a clear daylight in the background.
An example of his ability to resolve natural elements in a synthetic vision which transcends particular situations is the portrait of a woman called La Donna Gravida in the Pitti Gallery, Florence. The subject is a pregnant woman, conscious of her approaching motherhood, who looks intensely toward the spectator, with her hand on her abdomen. The portrait is finely balanced. Solid forms are reduced to pure spherical volumes, overlaid with carefully chosen colours. The sense of colour which this painting shows will be used again by Raphael in his portrait of Cardinal Fedra Inghirami.
There are very few examples of portraits of a pregnant woman in Renaissance painting. Raphael shows great sensitivity for the special situation of the mother-to-be by showing both her fragility and her calm pride. Her left hand, resting protectively, gently emphasizes the swell of her stomach, while her gaze rests directly on the onlooker.
The controversial Self-Portrait in the Uffizi is very similar to the Blessing Christ, but its poor state of conservation has prevented critics from attributing it objectively and definitively to Raphael. Nevertheless, many art historians consider it a work from the Florentine period. The soft light which pervades the portrait certainly recalls Da Vinci, 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.
Portrait of a Woman (La Muta) (1507)
The female portrait known as The Mute Woman represents a return to the influence of Da Vinci. It certainly comes from the Florentine environment, for it was given in trust to the National Gallery of the Marches by the Uffizi, where it had been stored for several hundred years. It was attributed to Raphael only recently. Leonardo inspires mainly the pose of the figure (whose characteristically crossed hands constitute a very clear reference to the Mona Lisa). The neatness of the large areas of colour which emerge in lighter tones from the near-black background, and the analytical treatment of the details of the woman's clothing are characteristic of Raphael. The dispersive effect of this attention to detail is fully compensated by the tones of colour - used here in a fairly limited range - which unify the composition as a whole.
Portrait of a Cardinal (1511)
The red cape and hat identify the figure as a cardinal, but his identity has remained unknown. It might be Cardinal Francesco Alidosi, whom the humanist Bembo described with the cutting words, "Faith meant nothing to him, nor religion, nor trustworthiness, nor shame, and there was nothing in him that was holy."
This painting was once considered a work of the mature painter. But it has recently been dated 1510-1511 on the basis of its composition which resembles those of the Portraits of Agnolo and Maddalena Doni and the Mute Woman. The pose is identical: the figure is turned three-quarters out and the arm nearest the viewer defines the lower limit of the picture space. The Cardinal's right eye is particularly striking in its three-dimensional modelling, and its clear expression. The convex shape of the eyeball is clearly defined in its socket, the eyelid coming down at a slight angle over the moistly gleaming pupil. The sitter's gaze is so direct it is difficult to meet it. This unknown figure was probably one of the more important people in the papal court, for his portrait - with the same penetrating look - is to be found on the left-hand side of the Disputa in the Stanza della Segnatura.
Portrait of Julius II (1512)
The picture came to Florence from Urbino as one of the masterworks inherited by Vittoria della Rovere, wife of the Grand Duke Ferdinando II dei Medici since 1637 and descendant from the same family of the Pope Giulio II (1443-1513). The shape of this portrait is innovative as the figure is not presented just half-length but to the knees: to this kind of portrait shortly afterwards derived the State-portrait.
An identical portrait now exhibited at the National Gallery of London raised a difficult question to establish which of them is the original painted by Raphael or the second version the artist's workshop probably executed under his supervision. According to the recent investigations, the Uffizi version is from Raphael's workshop.
Portrait of Balthazar Castiglione (1515)
The Portrait of Baldassarre Castiglione, a literary figure active at the court of Urbino in the early years of the 16th century, may or may not have been painted by Raphael. According to a letter of 1516 from Pietro Bembo to Cardinal Bibbiena, "The Portrait of M. Baldassar Castiglione... (and that of Duke Guidobaldo di Montefeltro) would seem to be by the hand of one of Raphael's pupils". But the high quality and masterful combination of pictorial elements which distinguish the painting (note the affection inherent in the intelligent and calm face of Castiglione) lead one to believe that the master participated in some way in its execution. Certainly the shaded tonalities of the clothing and the unusually light background indicate the hand of a skillful and experienced painter.
Baldassare Castiglione, a humanist and a writer, was one of the most important men of the Italian Renaissance. His popular book "Il cortegiano" (The Courtier) summed up the tastes and culture of the Renaissance, it gives insights into the thinking and culture at the court of Urbino at the turn of the 16th century, and is written in a style that is delightfully clear and precise. Rubens admired Raphael's portrait of Castiglione so much that he copied it.
Cardinal Tommaso Inghirami (1516)
This portrait shows the eminent man of letters and librarian of Pope Leo X with an absorbed expression, in the act of writing. It is assumed that Inghirami worked with Raphael on the program of the Stanza della Segnatura. The portrait is an exceptional work for its fullness of vision and vibrant colours, without being excessively grandiose or dramatic.
There are two extant versions: one in Boston and the other in Palazzo Pitti. Each has been considered the original at one time or another, but the dispute is useless, since both are highly coherent and the differences between them are slight: the physical structure of the Cardinal is more massive in the Boston portrait and leaner in the Pitti one. It is accepted by some experts that both versions are the work of Raphael, the Boston version being the earlier from 1512-14.
The red of the Cardinal's clothing dominates both. Inghirami's crossed eyes, a physical defect which the artist does not leave out, acquire a discreet tone which almost dissolves in the inspired pose of the figure. Without idealizing, but also without falling into unpleasant naturalism, Raphael maintains a harmonic equilibrium between realism and dignified celebration, a primary characteristic of portrait painting.
Portrait of Cardinal Bibbiena (1516)
At around 1516 Raphael was much sought after by priests and cardinals who competed in the decoration of their mansions in Rome. Cardinal Bernardo Dovizi da Bibbiena undoubtedly had more contact with Raphael than any of his colleagues. Cardinal Bibbiena, the private secretary of Leo X, was the most powerful man at the papal court. He was, in addition, a cultured writer and humanist, and (like Leo X) a passionate scholar of classical antiquity. He even wrote a comedy, "La Calandria." His trust in Raphael is demonstrated by many important commissions. His niece even became engaged to Raphael, but she died before the wedding and Raphael remained unmarried.
Raphael painted a portrait of the Cardinal which clearly expressed his shrewd and malicious spirit and his taste for beautiful things and fine living. The attribution of the portrait (now in the Pitti Gallery) is not certain, but the composition and the characteristic use of white and red suggest Raphael's hand. However, the rendering seems more rigid than in the paintings certainly painted by Raphael. Some critics therefore attribute it to a pupil of Raphael, or suspect that it may be a copy of an original which might have been lost.
Woman with a Veil (La Donna Velata) (1516)
Tradition identifies the subject with "la Fornarina", the woman whom the painter loved in his last years and whose face reappeared in both his paintings (e.g. in the Sistine Madonna) and those of his followers. However, the woman, has never been decisively identified. She seems to represent Raphael's ideal of beauty at this time.
The painting shows greater attention to colour and to the rendering of skin and clothes in respect to previous female portraits. The regular oval of the young woman's face stands out against the dark background and her eyes hold an intense and penetrating look. The silk of her sleeves contrasts with her ivory-like skin, and is closely associated with the thin pleating of the dress, held up by a corset with golden embroidery. As in the portrait of Castiglione, the figure radiates a sense of great dignity and restraint. But greys and light-blues dominated the portrait of Castiglione: here the warm tonalities of white and gold take over. Raphael is preparing the wider colour range and the more complex composition which will be expressed in the Portrait of Leo X.
Self-Portrait with a Friend (1519)
In this double portrait the artist himself stands behind a man on whose shoulder his hand rests familiarly. He stands calmly behind the unknown man (a friend or a pupil, perhaps Polidoro da Caravaggio), looking out of the picture with a serious expression. The friend's gesture is not meant for the onlooker, but seems more directed at Raphael, as if he were showing him something - himself, perhaps, in a mirror.
Portrait of a Young Woman (La Fornarina) (1519)
Much of Raphael's energy during his last years was directed toward public activity, or at least toward commissioners who were influential in city life and life within the Papal States (he designed a villa, known as the Villa Madama, for Cardinal Giulio de' Medici). Furthermore, many critics attribute to him a series of compositions of the Holy Family and of Saints which were then executed by his followers. The famous portrait of a young woman, called La Fornarina, must also be viewed in this perspective, although it is signed, in Latin, "Raphael from Urbino". The signature is engraved on the thin ribbon that the girl wears just under her left shoulder. Tradition identifies her with Margherita Luti, a Sienese woman whom Raphael loved, the daughter of a baker from the Roman district of Santa Dorotea. The stiffness of her features and the heavy chiaroscuro effect make La Fornarina an almost certain workshop piece with the contribution of Raphael, for Raphael's own work from this period is far more delicate.
There are several old copies of this painting, the most famous in the Galleria Borghese.
La Fornarina (Detail) (1519)
The picture shows a detail from the portrait known as La Fornarina. The painting is signed, in Latin, "Raphael from Urbino". The signature is engraved on the thin ribbon that the girl wears just under her left shoulder.
Described by Vasari, the Fornarina was also painted by Raphael as the famous veiled lady now in the Palazzo Pitti, as well as in numerous Raphael school paintings. The figure of the Fornarina was at the centre of the nineteenth century pseudo-historical romantic myth that grew up around the artist's personalty and the figure of his muse-lover. An identification, though not a historically provable one, has been made between Raphael's mythical lover and one Margherita Luti: recorded as the daughter of Francesco Senese, she entered the Convent of Santa Apollonia immediately following the painter's death.
The painting, datable to around 1520, the year of Raphael's death, probably remained in his studio, to be altered and sold by his student and heir Giulio Romano. The possibility that Giulio contributed to the execution of this panel has been alternately emphasized or minimalized by different critics. Recently though, a radiographic analysis has determined that the paint was applied in two successive stages. The original background, a leonardesque landscape, has been painted over with the thicket of myrtle, a plant sacred to Venus.
Pope Leo X with Cardinals Giulio de' Medici and Luigi de' Rossi (Detail 2) (1519)
An illuminated manuscript (somewhat similar in style and period to the Queen Mary's Psalter) lies open on the table in front of Pope Leo. On the same table rests a finely carved bell. Both objects undoubtedly reveal the exquisite tastes of the Pope who was an active patron of the arts. The velvets and damasks in their various rich tones add to the atmosphere of pomp and power.
Pope Leo X with Cardinals Giulio de' Medici and Luigi de' Rossi (1519)
Raphael's greatest masterpiece, possibly the only work he executed without help during his last years, is the Portrait of Pope Leo X and Cardinals Luigi de' Rossi and Giulio de' Medici (later to become Pope Clement VII), both relatives of the Pope.
This group portrait (which created a sensation, notwithstanding the existence of precedents) is focused on the central figure of the Pope. The two Cardinals, Luigi de' Rossi on Leo's right (whose sharp features, modelled by strong chiaroscuro effects, suggest the hand of Giulio Romano) and Giulio de' Medici on his left, act as a royal escort. An illuminated prayer book lies open on the table in front of Pope Leo. On the same table rests a finely carved bell. Both objects undoubtedly reveal the exquisite tastes of the Pope who was an active patron of the arts.
Perhaps those who connect Raphael's name only with beautiful Madonnas and idealized figures from the classical world may even be surprised to see this portrait. There is nothing idealized in the slightly puffed head of the near-sighted Pope, who has just examined an old manuscript (somewhat similar in style and period to the Queen Mary's Psalter). The velvets and damasks in their various rich tones add to the atmosphere of pomp and power, but one can well imagine that these men are not at ease. These were troubled times, for at the very period when this portrait was painted Luther had attacked the Pope for the way he raised money for the new St Peter's. It so happens that it was Raphael himself whom Leo X had put in charge of this building enterprise after Bramante had died in 1514, and thus he had also become an architect, designing churches, villas and palaces and studying the ruins of ancient Rome.
The uniform tone of colour, expressed in various red nuances; the quiet atmosphere, alluding to the power of the Pope and the splendour of his court; and the compositional harmony, make this portrait one of the most admired and significant works of Raphael.
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