Bindo Altoviti, Raphael. Oil on panel, 59,7 x 43,8 cm, ca. 1516 - 1518, Washington, National Gallery of Art, Samuel H. Kress Collection 1943.4.33

Raphael transformed Renaissance portraiture, expanding the range and possibilities of the genre in ways that had not been anticipated by any other artist. His portraits can be divided into two groups: official portraits and portraits of friends. The official portraits of cardinals, the Pope, and other prestigious sitters were commissioned works, sometimes executed under intense timepressure. Some of these, or some parts of these, were delegated to Raphael’s workshop, and Raphael may not have particularly relished painting these portraits.

The second group comprises portraits that Raphael painted of his friends, perhaps as gifts and possibly without receiving payment. In these portraits, which are of the highest quality and in which workshop assistance cannot be detected, Raphael’s originality is found in the painterly execution rather than in their form. They are predominantly painted on canvas and are amongst the artist’s greatest masterpieces, especially for their exploitation of the properties of painting on a canvas support. In his Self-Portrait with Giulio Romano which was probably the last portrait that Raphael painted and which serves as his artistic testament, Raphael combined compositional inventiveness with innovative execution while also commemorating his quasi-paternal relationship with Giulio Romano.

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