Five hundred years after the death of Raphael Sanzio, Italy pays homage to the supreme Renaissance artist with a great exhibition at the Scuderie del Quirinale. Raphael died in Rome on 6 April 1520 and it is in Rome that he owes his universal fame. It is therefore particularly significant that this national tribute should take place in the city where the artist from Urbino fully expressed his formidable talent, and where his life suddenly ended at only 37 years of age. More than one hundred masterpieces that are autographed or, in any event, are attributable to Raphaelesque ideas shall be gathered together at the Scuderie for the first time, including paintings, cartoons, drawings, tapestries and architectural projects.They will be joined by an equal number of works for comparison and context (sculptures and other ancient artefacts, Renaissance sculptures, codices, documents and precious masterpieces of applied art) amounting to a total of 204 works on display, including 120 paintings and drawings by Raphael himself.
A unique event that, in the context of modern Europe, aims to restore the universal worth of Raphael's art, which represented the undisputed basis of western artistic standards for four centuries. Jointly organised by the Scuderie del Quirinale in conjunction with the Uffizi Gallery, the exhibition is curated by Marzia Faietti and Matteo Lafranconi with the assistance of Vincenzo Farinella and Francesco Paolo Di Teodoro. The project benefitted from collaboration with the Borghese Gallery, the Parco Archeologico del Colosseo and the Vatican Museums, institutions that generously made themselves available to create significant synergistic coordination with the Scuderie del Quirinale and Uffizi Gallery for the celebrations of the year of Raphael in Rome.
The exhibition, unprecedented in scale,presents masterpieces from the collections of the most important national and international museums and collections including: Gallerie Nazionali d’Arte Antica, the Pinacoteca Nazionale (Bologna), the Museo e Real Bosco di Capodimonte, Galleria Borghese, the Museo Archeologico Nazionale (Naples) and the Fondazione Brescia Musei, as well as the Vatican Museums, the Louvre, the National Gallery (London), the Prado, the Museo Nacional de Artes decorativas (Madrid), the National Gallery of Art (Washington), the Metropolitan Museum (New York), the Albertina (Vienna), the British Museum, the Royal Collection, the Ashmolean Museum (Oxford) and the Musée des Beaux-Arts (Lille).
An unrepeatable opportunity to see the beloved creations of world-wide renown, gathered in the same place, including: the Madonna del Granduca and Woman with a Veil from the Uffizi and the great altarpiece of St Cecilia from the Pinacoteca Nazionale in Bologna; works that have never returned to Italy since they were exported to form part of collections such as the sublime Alba Madonna from the National Gallery in Washington, the Madonna of the Rose from the Prado or the Tempi Madonna from the Alte Pinakothek in Munich; extraordinary and iconic paintings such as the Portrait of Baldassarre Castiglione and the Self-portrait with a Friend from the Louvre. For the first time, the portraits of the two popes who allowed Raphael to demonstrate his immense artistic potential in the Roman years can be admired in the same place: that of Julius II from the National Gallery in London and that of Leo X with the cardinals Giulio de' Medici and Luigi de' Rossi from the Uffizi, displayed for the first time following its meticulous restoration, which lasted three years, by the Opificio delle Pietre Dure in Florence, a project that has restored its original luministic and chromatic sharpness and the incredible descriptive force of its details.
An authoritative board of advisors chaired by Sylvia Ferino has helped to develop the work of the curatorial team in greater depth by fostering fruitful dialogue with the world’s most highly accredited experts, including Nicholas Penny (former director of the National Gallery in London), Barbara Jatta (director of the Vatican Museums), Dominique Cordellier (Louvre), Achim Gnann (Albertina, Vienna), Alessandro Nova (Kunsthistorisches Institut, Florence), Alessandro Viscogliosi (Sapienza, University of Rome), Mario Scalini (Regional Director of the Museums of Emilia Romagna), Guido Cornini (scientific head of art of the XV-XVI centuries of the Vatican Museums). The productive collaboration between all these experts has permitted a shared selection of a very significant number of works by Raphael: over 120, including paintings, drawings, tapestries and letters, for a collection of creations by the artist from Urbino never before witnessed all together in such large numbers.
The contribution of the Uffizi Galleries, with a total of 49 works, more than 30 of which by Raphael himself, is crucial in terms of loans and the scientific work performed. Among these, the aforementioned Portrait of Leo X with the cardinals Giulio de' Medici and Luigi de' Rossi deserves a special mention, among the most famous works preserved in Florence now displayed to the general public after delicate restoration work carried out specifically for this Roman loan, and undoubtedly the most representative work of the utmost prestige of his clients.
Raphael and Rome
Raphael lived in the city of the Popes, the Curia, the papal patrons, the humanists, scientists and writers, many of whom were his friends, from 1509 to 1520. Eleven intense and prolific years, during which he was able to express his talent in new and experimental forms that consecrated him, along with Michelangelo, as the greatest artist of the late Renaissance. The exhibition, which draws inspiration from the 500th anniversary of Raphael's death, pays particular attention to the fundamental Roman period, while fully describing the vast and articulated creative works of the artist from Urbino in a monographic key: from the plastic to the decorative arts, from antiquities to architecture to town planning - Raphael became head of the Fabbrica di San Pietro, the construction of St Peter’s, in 1514 - the exhibition is not limited to displaying the masterpieces of painting, but also extends to all the design work performed by the artist, on an unprecedented scale for an exhibition dedicated to him.
Conducting the excavations to bring artefacts and ruins to light; studying and preserving the urban remains of ancient Rome; overseeing the grandiose construction site of St Peter's basilica; perfecting the study and method of painting, loved and requested by the most prestigious clients for its naturalness and unparalleled harmony. These, and many others, were the tasks that Raphael was called upon to perform throughout the Roman period and until his sudden passing.
At his unexpected and premature death, great was "the dismay and sadness that his passing generated in the soul of all, but particularly within the community of humanists which had both inspired and allowed the exponential development of Raphael's design potential and cultural ambitions during the Roman years" (from the essay "La morte di Raffaello nelle parole dei contemporanei" by Matteo Lafranconi).
The exhibition is organised in an innovative manner, which proposes a path that starts from 6 April 1520 and works backwards, retracing Raphael’s entire creative journey, from Rome to Florence, from Florence to Umbria and from there to its urban roots. A rousing flash-back that starts with a spectacular life-size reproduction of the monumental tomb of Raphael at the Pantheon, commissioned specially for the exhibition from the FACTUM FOUNDATION FOR DIGITAL TECHNOLOGY IN CONSERVATION, a world leader in digital surveys related to heritage preservation.
The famous epitaph "in humanistic Latin that enhances the creative force of Raphael precisely through the desolation generated by his passing" (from the essay "La morte di Raffaello nelle parole dei contemporanei" by M. Lafranconi) accompanies us on a journey working its way backwards, as stated in the very title of the exhibition poster which inverts the dates, from his death towards grace and the "elegance" of a unique artist.
ILLE. HIC. EAST. RAPHAEL. TIMVIT. QVO. SOSPITE. VINCI
RERVM MAGNA PARENS ET MORIENTE MORI.
"This is Raphael, by whom, in his life, great mother Nature feared defeated and, in his death, she too feared to die".
(from the essay "La morte di Raffaello nelle parole dei contemporanei" by M. Lafranconi)
The first decisive chapter of this itinerary is dedicated to the famous Letter to Leo X, written by Raphael together with Baldassarre Castiglione (which became the theoretical foundation of the modern idea for the protection of cultural heritage) and the precious manuscript copy of the State Archive of Mantova is displayed.
The section includes a multimedia installation by Alessandro Viscogliosi, made by Katatexilux, dedicated to the reconstruction of the Map of Ancient Rome, the great archaeological-architectural endeavour that Raphael left unfinished upon his death, with particular disappointment on the part of humanists and scholars for whom it had represented the most ambitious archaeological endeavour ever attempted.
Raphael's profound antiquarian culture and his ability to integrate it into modern projects is also demonstrated in the architectural section, where a spectacular 3D reconstruction of the facade of the lost Palazzo Branconio is displayed, curated by Francesco Paolo Di Teodoro, created by Opera Musei Fiorentini and made in collaboration with Centro Studi Vitruviani and the Municipality of Fano.
Lastly, of the exhibits produced specifically for the exhibition, the 3D reproduction, again by FACTUM FOUNDATION FOR DIGITAL TECHNOLOGY IN CONSERVATION, of the Raphaelesque preparatory cartoon for The Sacrifice at Lystra tapestry (on display on loan from the Vatican Museums), created by concession of the Royal Collection and in collaboration with the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.
Dario Franceschini, Minister of Cultural Heritage and Tourism:
"An exhibition of extreme scientific rigour, great educational content and significant ability to disseminate, which illustrates Raphael in his fullness as a man of the Renaissance, engaged in the research and protection of beauty and harmony in all his activities, from his painting to the performance of his role as Prefect for the Antiquities of the State of the Church, contributing to the development of full awareness of the need to safeguard the cultural heritage".
Mario Di Simoni, President and Chief Executive of Ales - Scuderie del Quirinale:
“The exhibition honours a unique moment in the history of our culture, the 500 years since the death of the painter par excellence, Raphael. It does so by working backwards from his death to his youth in Urbino, thereby illustrating, through logical and unpublished comparisons, as well as universally loved masterpieces, the extraordinary parable of Raphael, the complete artist. The collaboration with the Uffizi Gallery was so organic that, for this event, the attentive visitor can experience a journey through Rome and Florence, immersed in the world of Raphael".
Eike Schmidt, Director of the Uffizi Galleries:
“Never before has it been possible to admire so many masterpieces of the artist from Urbino, gathered and exhibited together to commemorate the 500th anniversary of his death. Art lovers from all over the world cannot miss this exceptional opportunity to come to Rome, to the Scuderie del Quirinale. It represents a unique opportunity, at least for this generation, which will allow visitors to completely immerse themselves in the wonderful universe of Raphael's art, described in an unprecedented itinerary, featuring over 200 works. The Uffizi Gallery is proud to have co-organised this momentous exhibition, sending some of the artist’s most famous and celebrated paintings and drawings, which make up almost a quarter of the exhibition itinerary, from Florence".
Marzia Faietti, Curator of the Raphael exhibition:
“Becoming interested in Raphael is very easy: that’s because the artist from Urbino is the author of an art which is complex, but at the same time capable of communicating to everyone. His painting is so meditated, thoughtful and sublimated, it contains so many layered levels of interpretation that every observer, from novice to the most cultured, has the opportunity to admire it and admire its different aspects and qualities. Raphael is an artist for everyone”.
Matteo Lafranconi, Director of the Scuderie del Quirinale and Curator of the Raphael exhibition:
"The main idea that inspired our considerations, as curators, from the beginning was to work towards the construction of a worthy tribute to the greatness of the artist; a tribute capable of conveying, as closely as possible, the quality, variety, grace, culture and intelligence of Raphaelesque creative thinking. With this service-oriented approach, nevertheless being aware of the difficulties, we tried to maintain the ambitions for the completeness and spectacularity of the exhibition’s itinerary as high as possible, in the belief that no effort was unworthy of being attempted to celebrate Raphael and his work on such an extraordinary anniversary".