the portraits by raphael -- 7/17/14

Today's encore selection -- from Raphael by Michele Prisco. Raphael (his full name Raffaello Sanzio or Santi), 1483 to 1520, painter and architect of the Italian High Renaissance. Born in Urbino, in east central Italy, he is considered one of the three artistic giants to emerge from the Renaissance, along with Michelangelo and Da Vinci, both of whom served as his primary teachers. Raphael set himself deliberately to learn from Michelangelo the expressive possibilities of human anatomy, and from Leonardo his lighting techniques and sfumato (strong contrast between light and dark). But Raphael differed from Leonardo and Michelangelo, who were both painters of dark intensity and excitement, in that he wished to develop a calmer and more extroverted style that would serve as a popular, universally accessible form. His work is admired for its clarity and ease of composition, and for its achievement of the Neoplatonic ideal of human grandeur. Raphael is best known and loved for his Madonnas, and for his large figure compositions in the Vatican, but much focus has recently been given to the equally great Raphael of the portraits

"Here, in his portraits, the 'divine' Sanzio is finally human or -- if you prefer plays on words -- he is divinely human. Here, we are exalted and surprised by the presence of an intellectual and critical grasp, which with an unquiet tension make the painter not just accessible to us, but ascribable to a very modern emotional and dialectical dimension...

La velata

"Here is the intangible, manly shadow, diffused with limpid vigor in the face of Agnolo Doni with veristic detail (unusual in Raphael) of the eyelid wrinkle, that makes the Florentine gentleman's gaze more penetrating and watchful. Here is the proud but sluggish stillness of La Gravida with that admirable hand on top of her belly in a gesture of possession defense and pride; and here in contrast are the vibratile hands of the mysterious unreachable Lady of Urbino (La Muta) ... And here, too, in comparison to the heavy indolence of Cardinal Tommaso Inghirami, who is represented halfway between dramatic emphasis and a pitiless, rather than ironic, caricature, we have the sublime spirituality and ambiguity of the Cardinal ... or the abandonment of Julius II on the papal chair with that presage of death -- the corruption of the flesh -- which gives the face of the old pope a more sorrowful, rather than resigned, fixedness of expression. Then there is La Velata in which the prosperity of the woman depicted is made evident by the combination of shining masses and subtle variations of tone."


Michele Prisco


"Introduction" to Raphael






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