City blog. Rome based.

Raphael. April 6th, 1520-2020

Poor Raphael! Overshadowed for centuries by Michelangelo’s genius, today he is forced to give up the great celebrations organized in his honor due to an epidemic.

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Clicca qui per la versione italiana.


Raphael, Self-portrait, Uffizi Gallery, Florence

Raphael was born and died on April 6 (1483-1520), and for today were planned great events in memory of the 500 years since his death.

What has happened in recent months has changed the plans, and even the great exhibition at the Scuderie del Quirinale has closed its doors a few days after opening. The celebrations immediately went virtual. So we are all invited to participate from home. Through social networks and websites, museums and cultural institutions are sharing Raphael’s work, but also many citizens take part in this great party.

Raphael in Villa Farnesina

I choose the frescoes of the villa of Agostino Chigi (today Villa Farnesina) in the district Trastevere , where the relationships with other men and women of his time is so evident.

(I wrote a short post about a Raphael’s fresco in Villa Farnesina here)

Raphael, Concil of the Gods, Psyche Loggia in Villa Farnesina

In fact, Raphael was linked with the his patron Agostino Chigi by professional bond and friendship; Agostino Chigi himself died a few days after Raphael, on April 11th, 1520.

With Giulio Romano, Giovan Francesco Penni, Raffaellino del Colle and Giovanni da Udine, the main artists of his workshop, who are responsible for reproducing Raphael’s drawings and ideas on the wall.

“La Fornarina”, Raphael (attr.), Galleria Nazionale d’arte antica, Palazzo Barberini, Roma

With Margherita Luti, daughter of a baker in the neighborhood and known precisely during the works for Villa Chigi. They had a love story, and she is supposed to be a source of inspiration for the painter.

Die for love

And it’s the same love that Raphael made so explicit in the decoration of the Loggia of Psyche that become, over the centuries, important in the Raphael’s story. One of the best known works attributed to Raphael is “La Fornarina” in Palazzo Barberini, identified precisely with the baker’s daughter loved by the painter (fornarina meaning “baker’s daughter” in italian),  and in the legend of Raphael love is the cause of his death.

According to the historiography of his time, Raphael died due to “love excesses” which caused to him high fever. Much more likely pneumonia, aggravated by malaria, endemic to Rome in that time.

Looking like the same pneumonia which forced to avoid any celebration to celebrate Raphael.

Villa Farnesina

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