Thursday, February 21, 2013

Raffaello Sanzio

Head of a Muse
Cardboard, black chalk, charcoal
30.5 x 22.2 cm

''The drawing is not only a work of genius in its own right but is also related to one of Raphael's great frescoes in the Vatican and has come down to us in remarkable condition and with distinguished provenance, having previously been owned by both Sir Thomas Lawrence and King William II of Holland.'' (director of Christie's) ; In 2009, Raphael's Head of a Muse sold for £29.2millon at Christie's.

In 1508 Raphael was summoned to Rome and commissioned to paint frescoes in one of the Papal rooms in the Vatican. During the same period, Michelangelo was painting the ceiling fresco of the Sistine Chapel, sparking competition between the two Renaissance Masters.
"Head of a Muse" was drawn by Raphael as a study for a figure in Parnassus which shows Apollo holding court on the mountain, surrounded by muses, which was commissioned by Pope Julius II. It was one of the series of four frescoes in the Stanza della Segnatura in the Vatican, which the Pope intended to use as his library. It was created between 1508 and 1511, and the series is seen as Raphael's greatest masterpiece. Raphael spent most of the rest of his life in Rome under the patronage of Pope Julius II and his successor, Leo X.

Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino (1483 - 1520), better known simply as Raphael, was an Italian painter and architect of the High Renaissance, celebrated for the perfection and grace of his paintings and drawings. 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. Together with Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, he forms the traditional trinity of great masters of that period. He was a popular personality, famous, wealthy, and honored.

Raphael was enormously productive, running an unusually large workshop, and despite his death at 37, a large body of his work remains. Many of his works are found in the Apostolic Palace of The Vatican, where the frescoed Raphael Rooms were the central, and the largest, work of his career. After his early years in Rome much of his work was self-designed, but for the most part executed by the workshop from his drawings, with considerable loss of quality. He was extremely influential in his lifetime, though outside Rome his work was mostly known from his collaborative printmaking.

He died on his thirty-seventh birthday, April 6, 1520, because of acute illness, which lasted fifteen days, and was buried the next day, at his request, in the Pantheon amidst universal mourning and acclaim. His funeral was extremely grand, very well attended by large crowds. It is said that Raphael's early death plunged into grief the entire papal court. Pope Leo X, who had an intention to make him a cardinal, wept bitterly when he died. The inscription in his marble sarcophagus reads: "Here lies that famous Raphael by whom Nature feared to be conquered while he lived, and when he was dying, feared herself to die." He is said to have had many affairs, but he never married. The reason of his premature death is unknown.

Raphael's influence was widely spread even during his own lifetime. His posthumous reputation was even greater, for until the later 19th century he was regarded as the greatest painter who had ever lived - the artist who expressed the basic doctrines of the Christian Church through figures that have a physical beauty worthy of the antique. (it was against his authority that the Pre-Raphaelites revolted). He became the ideal of all academies, and today we approach him through a long tradition in which Raphaelesque forms and motifs have been used with a steady diminution of their values. In the modern era Raphael's past canonical status has counted against him and he has inevitably been compared, often unfavorably, to Leonardo and Michelangelo, whose personalities and artistic expression more readily accord with 20th-century sensibilities.

"While we may term other works paintings, those of Raphael are living things; the flesh palpitates, the breath comes and goes, every organ lives, life pulsates everywhere." (by Giorgio Vasari in the edition of Lives of the Artists, 1568)