In his New Year’s greetings to the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See, Pope Francis recalled the fifth centenary of the death of Raffaello Sanzio (Raphael), “the great artist from Urbino, who died in Rome on April 6, 1520”, and reflected: “he left us a vast legacy of inestimable beauty. Just as an artist’s genius can blend raw materials and different colors and sounds to create a unique work of art, so diplomacy is called upon to harmonize the distinctive features of the various peoples and states in order to build a world of justice and peace. This is in fact the beautiful masterpiece that all of us want to be able to admire.”[1]

The pope then went on to emphasize two other merits of Raphael. The first: “Raphael was an important figure of the Renaissance, an age that enriched all humanity. It was an age that had its own problems, and yet was filled with confidence and hope.” The second merit is that of having dedicated several paintings to the Madonna: “One of Raphael’s favorite subjects was the Virgin Mary. To her he dedicated many a canvas that can be admired today in museums throughout the world.”[2] Pope Francis captured well one of the characteristics of the great artist: in painting the Madonna, almost always depicted with her Son, Raphael established a typology that has had great religious and artistic success in the history of depictions of Mary that have been handed down through the centuries.[3]


Beauty and harmony

Rapahel was born in Urbino in 1483. His father was a painter and man of letters, and introduced his son to art. The cultural life of Urbino under the Montefeltro dukes favored the boy. It was a place where Piero della Francesca had left his mark. After the early death of his father, Raphael became a student of Perugino, a leader of the Umbrian school at the end of the 15th century, who had trained in Florence under Verrocchio, together with Lorenzo di Credi and Leonardo da Vinci. Perugino interpreted Piero della Francesca’s art in simplified and graceful forms, which had a significant influence on Raphael. He in turn was inspired by the crystalline clarity in the works of the great Piero – both in the perspective sphere and in the relationship between space and figure – which would later always be reflected in his paintings.

When Perugino reached the end of his famous career, the young Raphael experienced an inner crisis involving the artistic conception of his master and the vision of  Luca Signorelli, who saw art as communication and exhortation, with a social and spiritual function.

In 1504 Raphael was commissioned by the Albizzini family to paint the Marriage of the Virgin for the church of St. Francis in Città di Castello. It is the first painting on which he clearly placed his signature and the date, right in the center of the canvas, on the facade of the temple overlooking the scene: “Raffaello Urbinas 1504.” Here he reflects the underlying idea of the same image that Perugino was painting for the Chapel of the Relic of the Virgin’s Wedding Ring, in the cathedral of Perugia: this almost constitutes a challenge between the pupil and the master. The master takes up the scheme in the Delivery of the Keys (1484, Sistine Chapel): a foreground with the biblical episode, and in the background the temple and two triumphal arches. The fresco was celebrated as one of the best perspective constructions of the fifteenth century.

Raphael distorts the shape of the image: first of all he enhances the perspective and the sense of space generated by the pavement and the architectural structure of the temple (which recalls that of San Pietro in Montorio, by Bramante), and then he gives the characters a surprising vitality, keeping them in the most natural poses and portraying them participating in the event in different ways. On the right, Saint Joseph emerges with his flowering rod among the disappointed suitors (one even breaks his dry rod on his knee); on the left, Mary attracts  the attention of the girls who dreamingly form a crown around her. The groups form two curves: one toward the inside, echoing the front of the temple; the other toward the outside, which seems to include the spectators in the scene.

The figures that Perugino painted in his Marriage of the Virgin are completely different. They are rigid, static characters, almost extras who do not generate space and who seem not to participate in this solemn ceremony. In short, Raphael has painted a masterpiece to admire: the pupil, with the novelty of his vision of space and the expression of faces, surpasses the master. However, as the critic Strinati notes, we are faced with a work that makes us think: “The minute analysis of the detail has an epic aspect and the great humanistic painting conveys the skill of the hand but also the ambiguity of the proposal implicitly contained in it. With the Marriage of the Virgin Raphael fully demonstrates that he is a most capable painter. The work is excellent, but the culture underlying it could be suspected of a degree of sterility because it is completely turned toward the past.”[4] This is a rigorous and qualified judgement, yet the artist is only 21 years old and is entirely focused toward the future.

The Florentine experience

After the first success, Raphael felt the need to widen his experiences, and for him it became essential to look to Florence, to retrace the Florentine journey of his master, a pupil of Verrocchio. He brought with him a letter of introduction from Giovanna da Montefeltro, Guidobaldo’s sister, for the Gonfaloniere of the Florentine Republic, Pier Soderini. It bears the date of October 1, 1504.

Before the end of the year Raphael arrived in Florence, where in the meantime the two great geniuses of the Italian Renaissance, Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) and Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564) were fighting for supremacy among the Florentine artistic community. Raphael was amazed at what they had painted and sculpted, with their innovations on display in the Sala del Gran Consiglio in the Palazzo Vecchio. He immediately senses the novelty of their work, understands that they are the masters he has to come to terms with in a particularly lively moment of his training. He studied their works in depth and discovered that they represented two antithetical positions that were not easily reconciled: in Leonardo, art was a function of knowledge of nature, of life, of the discovery of the world; in Michelangelo, on the other hand, it was projected toward the understanding of man, of the mystery of the person, highlighting the tangle and contradictions of the human soul.[5]

Raphael is open to all experiences; in the process of admiring them he captures the depth of both, and even tries to compete with these incomparable artists. He intelligently imitates their innovative styles, captures their secrets, and understands well where the art market is headed.

For him, Florence is really a test case, where he tries to combine the merits of the two great artists and integrate them into the archetype of beauty. Vasari, in his biography of the artist, states it clearly: “[In his painting] it seems there really is a breath of divinity in the beauty of the figures and in the nobility of the painting, which leads those who consider it intensely to marvel at how the human genius, with the limitation of simple colors, can convert with the excellence of drawing the details of painting to living ideas.”[6] The observation is interesting: Raphael’s paintings are really alive, and what is more, in the simplicity and naturalness of their expressions they are full of energy and communicate something that attracts, amazes and enchants: it is the mystery of beauty that fascinates.

Raphael’s failure and success

Despite the letter of introduction, Raphael remains disappointed. Pier Soderini did not entrust him with any important task, and he had to make do with some marginal orders from some merchants. One of them, Taddeo Taddei, a businessman but also an intellectual, commissioned a painting of the Virgin and Child.

Raphael is not new to this work, and has already completed several commissions in Città di Castello and Perugia; but these are very much influenced by Perugino’s style and reveal a somewhat cold and repetitive way of painting that is going out of fashion. Now Taddei’s commission gives him the opportunity to express his originality: with the Madonna in the Meadow (Madonna del prato or Belvedere), dated 1506, Raphael reaches the height of his Florentine period.

The pyramidal composition clearly derives from Leonardo (see St. Anne, Virgin and Child) and presents a seated Madonna within a lake landscape against the background of a wide horizon: Mary holds the Child, who takes his first uncertain steps and plays with the Baptist’s astylar cross, a sign of his future saving mission. The artist reformulates the sense of mystery associated with Leonardo in mood of majestic and affectionate calm, conveyed by the combination of glances and gestures that intertwine and accentuate the beauty of the image.[7] The painting is the first in a series that, as we have said, makes Raphael a specialist of the Marian typology: the figure of the Virgin presents an exemplar of beauty, humanity and sweetness.

More or less contemporary is the Madonna del Cardellino, in its own way an experiment that also reaches perfection. This is followed by the Canigiani Holy Family and the Large Cowper Madonna of 1508 (named after the collection of which another Madonna by Raphael was part), where Jesus makes an affectionate gesture by placing his hand on the neckline of Mary’s robe.

The Florentine stay was also the era of portraits: many are worthy of note, including that of Agnolo Doni and his wife, Maddalena Strozzi Doni. The portrait’s setting is unmistakably reminiscent of that of the Mona Lisa. But Raphael creates a new painting. The female figure does not have to be beautiful, but she has to be “real.”[8] If, on the one hand, it imitates the Mona Lisa, on the other hand it features a woman who is not very idealized, or rather, who has some flaws: her hair lifted by the wind, her obesity and the ostentatious way she wears the precious jewel on her chest. Yet the image emerges with a certain majesty, accentuating the physical features and the intensity of the colors of velvet and satin.

The Deposition of Christ (or Pala Baglioni) from 1507 is an important commission: an altarpiece intended for a chapel in Perugia. For Raphael it represents a turning point in the Florentine artistic environment. It was commissioned by Atalanta Baglioni[9] in memory of her son, Grifonetto, who was assassinated in 1500 in a fratricidal war. Involved in the murder of his brother, Grifonetto had been thrown out of the house by his mother and fled into exile where he was killed by his cousin.

In this work Raphael recalls the tragedy that involved an entire family in a highly emotional episode. A young man, full of vitality, dominates the painting, carrying the body of Christ just taken down from the cross, and his face has the likeness of Grifonetto. Also in evidence is  the Magdalene, who still has her hair loose, the same hair with which she dried the feet of the Master; one can see her rosy hand in contact with the bloodless hand of Jesus. She is the only one who touches the Lord.

His pain connects with the other part of the painting, where the Madonna who faints (perhaps an image of Baglioni’s drama) is portrayed.[10] Among those who support the Lord there is an elderly character who looks at the viewer with an expression between fatigue and repugnance: Joseph of Arimathea? It echoes a Matthew by Michelangelo that struck the imagination of the painter. The composition of the painting also recalls a bas-relief on a Roman sarcophagus, the death of Meleager, from the 2nd century AD. For Raphael, this means an encounter with ancient culture: it is the first evidence the artist’s classicism. The work constitutes a model that will mark the history of painting.[11]

Raphael in Rome

At the end of 1508 Donato Bramante, a native of a village in Urbino and a friend of his father, summoned Raphael to Rome as a matter of urgency. Bramante is the architect of the reconstruction of St. Peter’s Basilica and knows well the artistic ferment that Julius II, the warrior pope, has now triggered in the city. Julius II did not want to live in the apartment of Alexander VI, his predecessor and rival, who, to his mind, had stolen the papal throne from him; therefore he decided to move to the upper rooms of Nicholas V and intended to renovate them completely.[12]

When Raphael arrives, he finds established painters already at work in the new apartment: Baldassarre Peruzzi, Lorenzo Lotto, Bramantino and Sodoma. Moreover, Michelangelo is painting the vault of the Sistine Chapel. On Bramante’s advice, Julius II entrusted Raphael with the decoration of the Stanza della Segnatura. The room (also known by the Italian term “stanza”) takes this name because it is intended for the court De signatura Gratiae: on the vault are represented, in four tondi, Theology, with the inscription Divinarum rerum notitia, that is, the revelation of God; then Philosophy, that is Causarum cognitio; and finally, Justice and Poetry. On the walls below Raphael paints the scenes illustrating these ideals, the foundation of humanistic culture.

Thus, under Theology there is the fresco of the so-called Disputation of the Sacrament. The theme is centered on the Trinity, in the traditional iconography: the Father, the Son and the Spirit (in the form of a dove), which hovers over the altar, where the monstrance with the Eucharist is found. It seems a simple scheme: in reality Raphael creates a semicircular combination, which starts from the altar, has the consecrated host as its center and widens into two perspective wings, around the Trinity. The first includes members of the militant Church: doctors of the Church (Augustine, Jerome, Ambrose, Thomas Aquinas), bishops and faithful (even Dante and Savonarola: a rehabilitation after Alexander VI?), who dispute the mystery of the sacrament. The other perspective wing represents the triumphant Church: in the center, Jesus, with the signs of passion and glory, flanked by Our Lady and the Baptist, the apostles, evangelists and prophets. Above, the Father, with his right hand blessing and with his left hand lifting a globe, with a choir of angels and a landscape fading into heaven. It really looks like the basin of an apse.[13] The explanation is clear: “revelation” takes shape in the Church and becomes significant in the architectural structure, where the heavenly reality confirms the earthly one, and this flows into that of heaven. The Disputation of the Holy Sacrament is the first of the masterpieces of the Room of the Signatura.

The ‘School of Athens’

Another masterpiece is the School of Athens (see figure 1), under Philosophy, opposite the Disputation, and it symbolizes ancient wisdom. It gives an ideal continuity between these two walls, between that of Theology and the other of Philosophy. But the new facts are really many compared to the Disputation. Here the architecture is solemn, because it represents the excellence of human thought, which has its acme in philosophy.[14]

At the center of the perspective are the two supreme philosophers of antiquity, Plato and Aristotle, who walk with resolute step, as if they intend to descend the stairs and enter the room. Plato indicates the sky, that is the world of ideas, and has in his hand a book, the Timaeus, the dialogue of the eternal and the becoming, which explains the origin of the cosmos, the nature of the elements and of the human person. His image has the features of Leonardo da Vinci, the artist who was a tireless searcher for truth and of the laws that regulate the universe. At his side, Aristotle – a young man with a questioning look, turning to Plato, his right arm stretched forward – he has in his left the Nicomachean Ethics, the book of morality describing human good. There is discussion as to who is the character depicted: perhaps it is Bastiano da Sangallo, a painter and architect so talented that he received the nickname “ the Aristotle of perspective.”[15] He could have designed the succession of perspective plans of the monumental architecture that draws an immense space that hovers endlessly and that takes up the structure of Bramante’s project for Saint Peter’s. Plato and Aristotle, with the features of two living characters, transfigure the problems of ancient philosophy into modern and contemporary issues.

Moreover, since they must represent the excellence of human wisdom, the human figures are imposing: people are distinguished by the grandeur of their attitude and the energy of their gestures. One recognizes Socrates, Alcibiades, Pythagoras, Euclid, and even Diogenes. There is no lack of characters of the time. One can see Bramante in the image of Euclid, and a young man stands out wandering among the learned, dressed in a white tunic: he is a scion of the Della Rovere dynasty, a nephew of Julius II.[16] There is also the self-portrait of Raphael, next to Sodoma, on the far right at the bottom, wearing a black cap, the only one looking toward the viewer, his signature.[17]

Perhaps Michelangelo is also present, in the role of Heraclitus, the only one in clothing of the time and with boots. A rumor has it that the pope himself asked that he be added, since Bramante and Leonardo were present. Michelangelo allusively recalls the likeness of the prophet Isaiah of the Sistine Chapel, whose portrait he had just finished, provoking discussion about him and the novelty of his style. Only here his figure, represented by Raphael, appears devoid of Michelangelo’s pathos.

Poetry and Justice

Under Poetry, in the lunette above the window, there is the exaltation of the idea of beauty with Parnassus. There we find Apollo, who plays a viola instead of the traditional lyre, and the Muses with musical instruments, in the presence of ancient and contemporary poets. Behind Homer we can recognize Virgil, Dante and Petrarch. Raphael wants to depict a continuity between the two worlds.

In the fresco opposite Parnassus, in the lunette above the window, the artist celebrates the virtues. Among the theological virtues Faith is represented by a little cherub who points to the sky, Hope by another with a torch in his hand, Charity by a third who gathers something from the branches of an oak tree (the heraldic emblem of Julius II). Among the cardinal virtues Prudence, Temperance and Fortitude are alternated with winged cherubs who animate the scene. It should be noted that the Fortitude is holding an oak branch instead of a sword, another tribute to the pope’s family.

The two frescoes on either side of the window celebrate Justice, with civil law (Justinian receives the Pandects) and ecclesiastical law (Gregory IX approves the Decretals, the collection of medieval canon law). However, in the figure of the pope, an old man with a resigned face, Raphael portrays Julius II with a beard, a particular sign of grief that says a lot about the pope. In 1510 he was defeated at Ferrara by Alfonso d’Este, husband of Lucrezia Borgia, with the support of the French. The Bolognese took advantage of this to knock down Michelangelo’s statue of the pontiff: a serious insult, to which Julius II reacted with an interdict. Meanwhile Louis XII summoned the Council of Pisa to depose the pope, who, surprisingly, made a vow not to shave off his beard until he had driven all the French out of Italy. Alas, he will have to keep his beard until death.

Raphael later painted an official portrait of Julius II with a beard, which was exhibited in the church of Santa Maria del Popolo in Rome. At that time the faithful rarely saw the pope, and that portrait would be the solemn proclamation of his religious and political program, interpreted effectively by the artist.[18]

The ‘Room of Heliodorus’

Raphael then painted the Room of Heliodorus, named after one of the frescoes representing the biblical Expulsion of Heliodorus, in which the character is sent by King Seleucus to plunder the riches of the temple in Jerusalem. But God listens to the prayers of the priest Onias, who kneels in the middle of the scene, by sending a heavenly knight to drive out Heliodorus, an ancient and at the same time modern theme that alludes not only to the spiritual and temporal programs of Julius II, but also to divine protection for the Church.

On the side is represented the beautiful and innovative night setting of the Liberation of Saint Peter by means of a luminous angel sent by God. There is also the Mass at Bolsena, depicting the drama of a Bohemian priest who has doubts about the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist: suddenly at the consecration drops of blood fall from the host and stain the corporal. They are all episodes in the history of the Church designed to show God’s blessing on the program of Julius II. In this Stanza the execution of the paintings is affected by various collaborators and students, constantly directed and followed by the master: Raphael’s hand by contrast disappears completely in the Encounter of Leo the Great with Attila.

In 1513 Julius II dies and Giovanni de’ Medici, son of Lorenzo the Magnificent, ascends the papal throne as Leo X. In the completion of the last fresco it is possible to recognize, in the features of the pope, the face of Leo. But here the artistic level does not reach that of the previous Stanze. In the last room, that of the Borgo Fire, the work of his students predominates.

Roman success: painter and architect

The artist’s fame is now well established and, upon Bramante’s death, Raphael was appointed architect of the Fabbrica di San Pietro, a position he would hold until his death. For this work, his study of ancient monuments is important, so much so that Leo X appointed him “superintendent” of the Antiquities of Rome, becoming almost a pioneer of archaeological protection.[19] The pope also entrusted him with the project of a series of tapestries (see figure 2) to decorate the lower part of the Sistine walls, already decorated with a depiction of curtains commissioned  by Sixtus IV (della Rovere). The work was to be located just below Michelangelo’s masterpiece. It is another challenge for Raphael, who designs an exceptional series of cartoons with stories of St. Peter and St. Paul, the patrons of the Church and the city of Rome. The drawings were executed in Brussels by the prestigious tapestry maker Pieter van Aelst, a success that will revolutionize the history of painting and the art of tapestries.[20]

Now prestigious commissions come pouring in, and not only in Rome. We must remember the Sistine Madonna for the monks of San Sisto in Piacenza, famous for its delicacy and refinement, so much so as to be counted among his masterpieces.[21] The canvas stands out for the revelation of the supernatural in the Madonna and Child, who solemnly walk on the clouds looking toward the faithful and soliciting their participation.[22] In the figure of St. Sixtus we can recognize the features of Pope Julius II; there are also two little charming angels who, on the edge of the balustrade, admire the scene dreamily.

One of the most important commissions in Rome is the Portrait of Leo X between Cardinals Giulio de’ Medici and Luigi de’ Rossi. The pope is painted within an interweaving of glances between the cousins “in mute conversation” and is represented in the act of leafing through a precious illuminated Bible, with a lens in his hand, to indicate his cultural interests, the taste of a collector and refined connoisseur of the arts.[23]

Among the works whose dates are not easy to establish is the Triumph of Galatea. The fresco seems parallel to the Deposition of Christ, and is also similar to the setting of the Madonna in the Meadow. There is no trace of the style of the School of Athens and yet the work could be its contemporary. Agostino Chigi, a very rich banker, commissioned the artist to depict in  fresco the myth of Galatea for the sumptuous villa built by Peruzzi at the Lungara (later called the Farnesina). The nymph is standing on a shell pulled by the dolphins that carry her to safety from the advances of Polyphemus: in the red of the mantle that surrounds her, she emerges hovering, with her body in torsion; a triton has seized another nymph that tries to free herself from the violent grip, while a third clings to the shoulders of a centaur. Against the backdrop of the shimmering sea are the watchful eyes of Eros and the cupids ready to shoot their arrows.

Perhaps the painting tells the story of Chigi who, having remained a widower, asks for Margherita Gonzaga’s hand and is refused. Raphael learns that margarites means “pearl” in Greek: and Galatea, splendid and majestic, stands out like a pearl in the shell. There is another secret: her face would be that of Imperia Cognati, the most famous courtesan in Rome, loved by the banker after the refusal of the noblewoman.[24] Chigi proposed her as a model to Raphael, who appreciated her beauty and craft. Here the adventurous life of the artist is also revealed.

Certainly the two had in common an immoderate passion for women – documented also by Vasari – which is perhaps at the origin of the troubles for the artist from Urbino: “Raphael was a very loving and affectionate person, and quick to serve women. […] Thus when Agostin Chigi, his dear friend, had him paint the first loggia in his palace, Raphael did not pay attention to his work due to the love he had for one of his women; for this reason Agostino despaired […] and ensured that this woman of his came to stay with him in the house continuously, in that part where Raphael worked, which was the reason that the work was completed.”[25]

The episode confirms Raphael’s passionate attraction to feminine beauty that marks his works. Unfortunately, personal events do not help to interpret some of his masterpieces, including the Fornarina. The painting, a beautiful face without a name, with her sparkling eyes almost as a sign of understanding and delicate breasts brushed by her fingers, was so dear to the painter that he kept it with him until his death. Raphael engraved his name on the bracelet  that circles her left arm: it is his signature. The girl is possibly the daughter of a baker, living not far from the Lungara villa. There is no evidence to document it and the painting had no client: “Just like Leonardo’s Mona Lisa, the Fornarina is a ghost figure in the history of art.”[26]


Raphael died at the age of 37, on April 6, 1520.[27] because of the unruliness of his life, says Vasari.[28] To his deathbed, the students brought The Transfiguration, his last masterpiece, not yet completed, which represents the most beautiful and most original work the artist had produced in just under 20 years of intense and passionate work, measuring himself against the greatness of Leonardo and Michelangelo, sometimes perhaps, according to some, surpassing them.

This is how Pietro Bembo celebrates Raphael on the stone sealing his tomb at the Pantheon: Ille hic est Raphael timuit quo sospite vinci / rerum magna parens moriente mori.[29] It would be difficult to add more.

DOI: La Civiltà Cattolica, En. Ed. Vol. 4, no. 05 art. 9, 0520: 10.32009/22072446.0520.9

[1].    Francis, Address to the members of the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See, for the presentation of greetings for the New Year, January 9, 2020, in w2.vatican.va

[2].    Ibid.

[3].    Cf. G. C. Argan, Storia dell’arte italiana. III. Il Cinquecento, il Seicento e il Settecento dal Neoclassicismo al Futurismo, Florence, Sansoni, 1979, 26.

[4].    C. Strinati, Raffaello, Florence – Milan, Giunti, 1995, 13.

[5].    Cf. G. C. Argan, Storia dell’arte italiana…, op. cit., 25.

[6].    G. Vasari, Vita di Raffaello da Urbino pittore e architetto, in Raffaello. I disegni, Florence, Nardini, 1983, 145. And further on, concerning a painting of St. Anne handing the child to Mary: “Her beautiful son is naked and the features of his face, and his laughter cheer anyone who looks: […] Raphael showed in painting our Lady all that beauty can achieve in the depiction of a Virgin, where in her eyes is found modesty, in her forehead honor, in her nose grace, and in her mouth virtue: […] her habit is such that it shows infinite simplicity and honesty” (ibid., 149).

[7].    Cf. P. De Vecchi – E. Cerchiari, Arte nel tempo. I. Dal Gotico Internazionale alla Maniera Moderna, Milan, Bompiani, 1992, 339.

[8] .    C. D’Orazio, Raffaello segreto. Dal mistero della ‘Fornarina’ alle Stanze vaticane, Milan, Mondadori, 2019, 72.

[9] .   Cf. G. Vasari, Vita di Raffaello da Urbino pittore e architetto, op. cit., 143.

[10].   Note here the elbow of the girl in torsion supporting the fainting Madonna: it is a veiled tribute to Michelangelo’s Tondo Doni.

[11].   It will inspire Andrea del Sarto and Fra Bartolomeo.

[12].   For the Stanze, see R. Salvini, Stanze e logge di Raffaello, Novara, De Agostini, 1983; A. Paolucci, Raffaello in Vaticano, Florence – Milan, Giunti, 2013; M. Faietti, “Con studio e fantasia” in M. Faietti – M. Lafranconi (eds), Raffaello 1520-1483, Catalogo delle Scuderie del Quirinale, Milan, Skira, 2020, 19-37. See also J. B. Fellay, “Raffaello; the antithesis of Luther?” in Civ. Catt. 2017 I 120-132.  

[13].   Cf. G. C. Argan, Storia dell’arte italiana…, op. cit., 43.

[14].   Cf. A. Gnann, “The activity of Raphael under Pope Julius II” in M. Faietti – M. Lafranconi (eds), Raffaello 1520-1483, op. cit., 359-367.

[15].   See C. Strinati, Raphael, op. cit., 30.

[16].         The identification is not certain: see A. Rocca, Il Raffaello dell’Ambrosiana. In principio il Cartone, Milan, Mondadori, 2019, 46.

[17].   The detail does not appear in the preparatory cartoon and it is also missing in the portrait by Sodoma, a sign that Raphael inserted it at the last moment (cf. ibid., 76).

[18].   The portrait is from 1512 and is now in London at the National Gallery.

[19].   See E.C., “Raffaello architetto. L’altra faccia del pittore” in C. Strinati, Raffaello, op. cit., 47; interesting is his Letter to Pope Leo X, written with Baldassarre Castiglione, on the protection and conservation of the monuments of ancient Rome (see the text in C. D’Orazio, Raffaello segreto…, op. cit., 183-193).

[20].   “The tragedy and the pathos, the emotion, the glory, the drama enter the tapestries so that each piece of the series is destined to remain unforgettable” (A. Paolucci, Raffaello in Vaticano, op. cit., 39).

[21].   The altarpiece was commissioned by Julius II to honor the memory of his uncle, Pope Sixtus IV, Francesco della Rovere. Today it is located at the Gemäldegalerie in Dresden.

[22].   Cf. P. De Vecchi – E. Cerchiari, Arte nel tempo…, op. cit., 372.

[23].   Ibid., 376. The page of the Bible that the pope has open before him is the beginning of the Gospel of John (John 1:1): allusion to the name of Leo X. The Portrait, recently restored, is in the Uffizi.

[24].   C. D’Orazio, Raffaello segreto…, op. cit., 148.

[25].   G. Vasari, Vita di Raffaello da Urbino pittore e architetto, op. cit., 152.

[26].   C. D’Orazio, Raffaello segreto…, op. cit., 162.

[27].   It was Good Friday. The day of his birth, March 28, 1483, was also Good Friday.

[28].   “Raphael, spending so much time on his secret love-life, continued his pleasures out of the way, so that he was more disordered than usual. Because he returned home with a great fever, he was believed by doctors to be with a temperature; as he  foolishly did not confess the illness he had contracted,, they drew blood from him; so that he became faint, whereas he needed refreshment. He made a will, and as a Christian he sent his beloved out of the house, and left her means to live honestly. […] Then he confessed and contritely ended the course of his life” (G. Vasari, Vita di Raffaello da Urbino pittore e architetto, op. cit., 155).

[29].   “Here is that Raphael by whom, for as long as he lived, Mother Nature feared to be vanquished, and while he was dying, she feared to die.” See M. Lafranconi, “‘Ille hic est Raphael’. La morte di Raffaello nelle parole dei contemporanei” in M. Faietti – M. Lafranconi (eds), Raffaello 1520-1483, op. cit., 43-51.