RAFFAELLO UNIVERSAL ARTIST
Arte, cultura, -mondo-06-04-2020
With Raffaello Sanzio begins our column Characters who made the history of Italy, both in this period and in the future, it will certainly be pleasant to know how much history and culture is rich in our country. "Here is that Raphael from which, since that he lived, MadreNatura feared to be overcome by him and when he died he feared to die with him. " epigraph on the tomb of Raphael in the Pantheon in Rome
“I had gone to see that painting (the Madonna of the chair; Florence) to have a good time; and here I am in front of the freest, most steadfast, most wonderfully simple and lively painting that can be imagined. " Pierre Auguste Renoir.
On April 6, 1520, Raffaello Sanzio died in Rome; according to some historical interpretations, on the day of his thirty-seventh birthday (Vasari instead indicates his birth on Good Friday on April 28, 1483). Five hundred years after that event, the world stops and for a moment forgets the obsession with the pandemic to remember this giant of art and humanity. Città News wants to remember this Italian genius for you. To do this, a brief historical premise is appropriate and recall the extraordinary period in which the great painter of Urbino lived and worked: the Italian and European Renaissance. Historiography and art history tell of this period as a renaissance. This is true but it is not the whole truth; in reality it is a complex chain of historical and social phenomena with important repercussions also in the following centuries: the affirmation of a new geopolitics. A real leap in civilization. A new social paradigm produced by an emerging global actor: the city bourgeoisie. A social class, which appeared already in the late Middle Ages throughout Central and Northern Europe, which literally developed a new geoeconomic model: from producing for self-consumption, we passed on to producing for others and for commerce. A transformation that generated a long chain of epiphenomena: the artisan workshop, financial intermediation to facilitate trade, the expansion of trade routes, geographical discoveries, universal culture, Humanism and science. An important detail should be noted: the workshop was not only a place of production but also a place of training for young craftsmen and it is certain that Italian manufacturing skills between the 15th and 16th centuries reached levels of absolute excellence.
A special mention is due to the "master glassmakers" of Murano who made the powerful lenses with which Galileo Galilei, in the period in which he taught at the University of Padua, was able to perfect the previous rudimentary versions of the telescope. The gaze of man reached the ends of the universe. In 1455, twenty-eight years before Raphael, the German Johannes Gutemberg had invented the western version of printing using the movable type technique: the writing culture was becoming a mass phenomenon. In this rich flowering the "artistic workshop" also appears. Raphael lived fully in this revolution, contributing, together with Leonardo, Michelangelo and all the others, to the realization of the missing quota: that which belongs to art. With the artists of his generation, the Renaissance also gained a vision. In this path Raphael also had luck, that of being born in Urbino as an artist family. At the end of the 15th century Urbino was an important hub of the Italian Renaissance and his father Giovanni Santi (the official surname "Sanzio" comes from Santi, more or less like Marzio comes from Mars; his mother was called Maria di Battista) a good titular painter of an esteemed shop. The parent started his son early to the pictorial practice and to the study of the works of Piero della Francesca, who had left some of his most beautiful creations in Urbino. An earliness that earned the talented teenager a place in the prestigious artistic workshop of Perugino and there are those who do not see in the ascending combination of human figures, architectural elements and natural views, paginated in the "Delivery of the keys" of the Umbrian master, inspiring motifs present also in the student's subsequent works, such as "The Marriage of the Virgin" and even in "The School of Athens". At just 17 (we are in 1500) Raphael was artistically mature but he maintained the instinct of the student for a long time, researching and studying the great works of contemporary giants, Leonardo and Michelangelo in the first place. For several years he worked as an itinerant artist leaving masterpieces in various cities. The banner of the Trinity (1499) belongs to the period of Città di Castello, preserved in the municipal art gallery of the Umbrian town, the Pala del Beato Nicola da Tolentino (1500-1501), a dismembered work with parts preserved in various museums and the famous Gavari Crucifixion ( 1502-1503), today at the National Gallery in London (a part of the work, called "predella", is kept at the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga in Lisbon). In 1502 he painted the altarpiece for the Oddi family of Perugia with the "Coronation of the Virgin" (not to be confused with the work of the same name by Beato Angelico), stolen by the French in 1797 and subsequently returned to the Vatican. 1504 is the year of one of his greatest masterpieces: the "Marriage of the Virgin", commissioned by the Albizzini family of Città di Castello; after a long period of subtractions, changes of hands and sales, the work is currently at the Brera art gallery in Milan.
This period, which could be called "Umbrian period", which covers the early years of the 16th century, was what gave Raffaello esteem and fame. An important contribution to the training of the young Raphael also came from the Tuscan stays; in Siena (between 1502 and 1507), where he collaborated with his friend Pinturicchio to fresco the Piccolomini Library and, later in Florence, attracted, like many other artists, by the fame of Leonardo's preparatory cartoons (such as the one for the "Battle of Anghiari ") and Michelangelo.
Then there was only one way to admire the works of art: go and see them for yourself.
Several critics also attribute the famous self-portrait to the Florentine period. In his itinerant career Raphael maintained good relations with Urbino for whom he performed various works, including the "San Giorgio and the dragon" (1505), today at the Louvre in Paris and the large (268 × 160 cm) "San Michele that defeats Satan ”of 1518, also in the Louvre. Some art historians believe that the two works were originally intended for a diptych. For the court of the Montefeltro family of Urbino he painted the portraits of Guidobaldo da Montefeltro and Elisabetta Gonzaga (both at the Uffizi in Florence). A significant share of Raphael's fame comes from the so-called "Madonnas series"; many produced in the Tuscan period. These include the group of Madonnas with the child, the Madonna del Cardellino, the Madonna del Belvedere, the Madonna d’Orleans, the Grande Madonna Niccolini (or Cowper), the Madonna Bridgewater etc. (many of the names derive from the collections of which they became part), scattered throughout museums around the world. The extraordinary charm of the "Madonnas" lies in the perfect and harmonious fusion of Mary's normal maternal daily life with her divine nature. Motherhood and divinity at zero centimeters. The series of large portraits also belongs to the Florentine period, in many of which Leonardo's influence appears (as in that of Maddalena Strozzi) and the famous "Pala Baglioni"; even if commissioned by the Baglioni family of Perugia. The Florentine period ended with the unfinished Madonna of the canopy: at the end of 1508 Raphael was called to Rome by Pope Julius II, probably on the suggestion of his fellow countryman Bramante. Pope Julius II had in mind a major project of artistic and architectural renewal of Rome and the Vatican and had called upon the greatest Italian artists; but he was a person of difficult contentment. In reality it seems that Julius II wanted above all to renovate his private residence to move away from that of his predecessor Alexander VI (Rodrigo Borgia): "non volebat videre omni hora figuram Alexandri praedecessoris sui" (he did not want to see the figure of his predecessor Alexander at any time "); this is the testimony of a papal master of ceremonies. Of the new papal apartments (today the Vatican Museums), four large halls are collectively called "Raphael's rooms". In today's guided tours, the following are followed in order: the Room of Constantine, the Room of Heliodorus, the Room of the Segnatura and the Room of the Fire. Of the four rooms, the most famous is the Stanza della Segnatura, so called because it is used as a court (Segnatura Gratiae et Iustitiae); in reality the most probable original destination had to be that of studiolo. The walls of the room are in fact frescoed with representations dedicated to philosophy, theology, poetry and jurisprudence. In the wall dedicated to philosophy, the famous School of Athens appears, photographing a not too imaginary glimpse of the day of the great philosophers of classical Greece. During the Roman period Raphael also contributed to the design of the new basilica of S. Pietro, not neglecting portraiture; the portrait of Julius II and the famous "Fornarina" also belong to these years. Raphael still had an all too high number of engagements open when on Good Friday April 6, 1520 he died after a short illness. “How sweet was the yoke and the chain of your candid ones arms around my neck, that melting, I feel mortal pain. " Raffaello Sanzio