‘Raphael Revealed’ is a celebration of a great artist

Jon Nutton

“Raphael Revealed,” about the great Renaissance painter and architect, opens at the M.V. Film Center and online Oct. 20. Directed by awardwinner Phil Grabsky, “Raphael Revealed” uses imaginative camera work and editing to describe Raphael’s life and work through the largest exhibition ever of his work. This exhibition, at the Scuderie del Quirinale in Rome, portrays his works chronologically in reverse, from his grandest ones to the smallest, from 1520 to 1483.

Raphael was a prolific artist, and his surviving work consists of 800 drawings and 1,000 paintings. He oversaw 50 artists in his workshop, and increasingly delegated his art, although he never gave up painting.

Raffaello Sanzo da Urbino, or Raphael as he was known, was born in Urbino, Italy, into a wealthy family. His father was the painter Giovanni Santo, court painter for the duke of Urbano, and Raphael enjoyed an affluent childhood, but lost both his parents, his mother at age 8 and his father at 11. Gifted from an early age, he apprenticed with the master artist Perugino, and lived in Umbria for four years. His celebrated works at this point included the Oddi Church altarpiece in 1502, the Siena frescoes with Pintoricchio in 1503; and the “Marriage of the Virgin” in 1504.

Raphael moved to Florence in 1507, where he completed the “Deposition,” considered a masterpiece. He began to work in Rome in 1508 under Pope Julius II’s patronage, becoming architect of St. Peter’s in 1514. He completed his famous portrait of the Pope with two cardinals in 1518. His frescoes in the Raphael Rooms at the Vatican Museum are considered his central work, and were the largest of his career.

Rome as Raphael knew it was very different from the Rome of today. It only began to be excavated in the 15th century, when it was the center of Christianity but not of economic power. Beginning at the end of the 1400s, Raphael’s work was painted with a humanistic and romantic approach, according to the art historian Giorgio Vasari. Raphael became fascinated by the city’s classical architecture as it was being uncovered. The naturalness and harmony of his work came from his study of ancient culture there.

Raphael never married, and had no offspring. He did have many mistresses, and his engagement to Maria Bibbiena, niece of Raphael’s patron and friend Cardinal Bibbiena, was postponed until his death at age 37 on April 6, 1520. Raphael became the first artist to receive the honor of burial in Rome’s Pantheon. He has been cited for his genius, his originality, his inventiveness and imagination, and by many as one the greatest artists of all time.

For more information on “Raphael Revealed” or other films at the M.V. Film Center, visit mvfilmsociety.com.