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Young Man with an Apple

Raffaello Sanzio (Urbino 1483 – Rome 1520)

Saturn Room
Oil on wood
48 x 35.5 cm
1890, no. 8760

A half bust against a background of rolling hills and gracious trees. The young man is wearing a white shirt and a woolen vest, completed by a “robone” - the typical overcoat in precious fabrics popular during the 16th century - shown here in red velvet, decorated with embroidered gold squares and with a fur trim. He is wearing a red hat over the long, straight hair that frames a sharp face and a deep, intense gaze. His delicate hands are resting on a green surface before him, marking the depth of the surrounding space, and in one hand he holds a golden apple. The identity of the subject was not known by the inventory keepers at the time when the painting, part of the collection from Urbino, arrived in Florence in 1631, with the property of Vittoria della Rovere, wife of Grand Duke Ferdinando II, and last heir of the family.  One of the hypotheses put forward is that the painting’s subject is Francesco Maria della Rovere, nephew of Pope Julius II and adopted son of Guidubaldo and Elisabetta Gonzaga, who was named heir to the Duchy of Urbino in 1504.  The golden apple may be a symbolic allusion to this. Although the painting was originally recorded as a work by Francesco Francia, in the early 20th century, it then began to be seen as the work of Raphael, who is now universally recognized as the artist. The composition of the painting, with the subject seen in three-quarter view, together with the background elements, shows the development of the artist’s style, from the solemn, front-facing portraits of Elisabetta Gonzaga and Guidubaldo da Montefeltro, to the more complex, active view of the Doni portraits, painted in Florence in around 1505.

Text by
Anna Bisceglia
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