Raphael Exhibition At National Gallery Explores His Entire Career

Raphael Saint John the Baptist Preaching 1505

Having been postponed due to the Covid 19 pandemic and originally planned to mark the 500th anniversary of Raphael’s death in 2020, the National Gallery will finally unveil The Credit Suisse Exhibition: Raphael.

The exhibition will be the first to explore the entire career of this giant of the Italian Renaissance. For centuries Raphael has been recognised as the supreme High Renaissance painter, capturing our idea and ideals of the Renaissance visually.

Though he died at 37, Raphael’s example as a paragon of Classicism dominated the academic tradition of European painting until the mid-19th century.

Raphael (Raffaello Santi) (1483–1520) was born in Urbino, where his father, Giovanni Santi, was court painter. He almost certainly began his training there and must have known works by Mantegna, Uccello, and Piero della Francesca from an early age. His earliest paintings were also greatly influenced by Perugino. From 1500 – when he was an independent master – to 1508 he worked throughout central Italy, particularly Florence, where he became a noted portraitist and painter of madonnas.

In 1508, at the age of 25, he was called to the court of Pope Julius II to help with the redecoration of the papal apartments. In Rome, he evolved as a portraitist and became one of the greatest of all history painters. He remained in Rome for the rest of his life, and in 1514, on the death of Bramante, he was appointed architect in charge of St Peter’s.

Raphael’s life was short, his work prolific, and his legacy immortal. He was a painter, draughtsman, architect, archaeologist, and poet who captured human and divine love, friendship, learning, and power in his art. He gave us quintessential images of community and civilisation. In his brief career, spanning just two decades, Raffaello Santi (1483–1520) shaped the course of Western culture like few artists before or since. This exhibition will examine his celebrated paintings and drawings and his not so widely known work in architecture, archaeology, poetry, and design for sculpture, tapestry, prints, and the applied arts. The aim is to do something no previous Raphael exhibition has ever done – explore every aspect of his multimedia activity.

The Credit Suisse Exhibition: Raphael will demonstrate why Raphael plays such a pivotal role in the history of Western art and seek to understand why his work remains relevant to us today. There will be more than ninety exhibits focusing on autograph works and those in media he did not practice himself but for which he provided designs.

Loans from across his entire career – many of them unprecedented – will be travelling to London from around the world to join ten works from the National Gallery’s outstanding collection of the artist’s work. Lenders will include the Louvre, Paris, Musei Vaticani, Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence, National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, and the Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid.

Work and activities that cannot be represented by original exhibits – such as the monumental frescoed rooms in the Vatican Palace, known as the Stanze of Raphael – will be presented in other innovative ways.

THE CREDIT SUISSE EXHIBITION: RAPHAEL, 9 April – 31 July 2022  National Gallery, £24, Concessions apply, Members go free

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Lead Image: Raphael, Saint John the Baptist Preaching, 1505, Oil on poplar, 26.2 x 52 cm, © The National Gallery, London

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