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Late Raphael Friday, June 8, 2012

The Museo del Prado is presenting the exhibition Late Raphael, which is one of the most important ever to be devoted to the artist and his studio and the first to focus on his final years, during which time Raphael became the most influential painter in Western art. Co-organised with the Musée du Louvre, which will show the exhibition between October 2012 and January 2013, and sponsored by Fundación AXA, it will be inaugurated this Monday, 11 June, by Her Majesty the Queen accompanied by the President of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, Gianfranco Fini, the President of the Spanish Congress, Jesús Posada, and the Spanish Minister of Education, José Wert. The exhibition includes a total of 74 works, the majority of them never previously exhibited in Spain. It will present a chronological survey of Raphael’s artistic activities from the start of the pontificate of Leo X (1513) to the artist’s death in 1520, as well as analysing the activities of his principal assistants, Giulio Romano and Gianfrancesco Penni, up to 1524.

Late Raphael

Press conference of the exhibition Late Raphael

Late Raphael, curated by Paul Joannides (Cambridge University) and Tom Henry (independent scholar) and coordinated by Miguel Falomir, Museo del Prado, and Vincent Delieuvin, Musée du Louvre, is the first major survey exhibition on Raphael (Raffaello Sanzio, 1483-1520) to combine paintings and drawings in order to focus on the last seven years of the life of the artist, who died in Rome on his 37th birthday. This was the period in his career when Raphael produced the work that would have the greatest subsequent impact on European art. Nonetheless, his paintings have not been fully understood due to chronological issues, to their disconcerting diversity and because the artist did not work by himself. This important exhibition has been made possible through the sponsorship of Fundación AXA, which was the first company to become a Benefactor Member of the Museum and which this week renewed its commitment to the Prado for a further four years.

The last three exhibitions to be devoted to Raphael, held in London, Rome and Urbino, focused on his early years and the only attempt to analyse the late period was the exhibition held in Mantua and Vienna in 1999, which primarily focused on drawings.

The present exhibition aims to establish a clear definition of the boundaries between works executed by Raphael and those produced with the collaboration of his principal assistants, Giulio Romano (ca.1499-1546) and Gianfrancesco Penni (ca.1496-1528). It starts in 1513 by which date Raphael had been working in Rome for five years, decorating the monumental Vatican Stanze alongside other leading Italian artists such as Michelangelo (his principal rival, at that point working on the Sistine Chapel) and Sebastiano del Piombo, firstly during the pontificate of Julius II then for Leo X.

With the change of pope Raphael took on a greater number of commissions both for Leo X and for other patrons and at this point began to employ a considerable number of assistants. His studio was very possibly the largest to date under the direction of a single great painter and eventually counted on 50 pupils and assistants.

The exhibition will present the visitor with the highly efficient and effective results of this system, led by the remarkably versatile Raphael. In addition to producing easel paintings (the subject of this exhibition) he also executed frescoes such as those for the Vatican Stanze and for the Villa Farnesina, cartoons for tapestries (for the Sistine Chapel), and worked as an architect (continuing the construction of St Peter’s after Bramante’s death).

As a result of this collaboration between the Museo del Prado and the Musée du Louvre, which together house the largest number of works from Raphael’s final period, the exhibition includes an unprecedented selection of forty-four paintings, twenty eight drawings, an archaeological item and a tapestry, loaned from around forty different institutions. Visitors will thus be able to see a chronologically structured survey organised into six sections that cover Raphael’s pictorial and aesthetic evolution and also present a comparison of his final style with a group of works by his two assistants Romano and Penni, the latter produced both during Raphael’s lifetime and immediately after his death. This unprecedented opportunity for comparison will allow for an identification of the degree of participation of Raphael and his assistants in these works while also helping to establish the latter’s intellectual and aesthetic contribution to Raphael’s oeuvre.


The exhibition is divided thematically into six sections. Those devoted to Altarpieces, Large Madonnas and Holy Families and Portraits focus on the activity of the workshop during Raphael’s lifetime, whereas Small Madonnas and Holy Families and Giulio Romano explore the independent activity of his two main assistants, focusing on the period 1520-25. The last section, in room 49 of the Villanueva building, examines the creative process of the Transfiguration, Raphael’s final masterpiece, through the copy made by Penni and Giulio, which is shown together with a selection of drawings by the master.

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