The Louvre Museum is hosting the first ever retrospective exhibition of the later works of Raphael produced in Rome and in his studio. The exhibition includes around one hundred paintings, drawings and tapestries retracing his work, as well as that of his two principal studio assistants, Giulio Romano and Gianfrancesco Penni, and covers the period from 1513 until 1524, four years after the death of the master and the year in which Giulio Romano left for Mantua.
The exhibition begins with works produced in Rome in 1513, when Raphael (1483-1520) had just turned 30. He had already been in the city for five years decorating a suite of reception rooms at the Vatican Palace – the Stanze –, when Pope Leo X succeeded Pope Julius II. Raphael received so many commissions from the new pope and other patrons and demand was so strong (architect for the princes, designer of tapestries, painter of frescos) that he was forced to hire around fifty assistants. Forming the biggest studio ever managed by an artist and managing to establish an extraordinary degree of harmony within the group, he set up a collaborative system that was to serve as a model for the major studios and workshops of the 17th century.
Raphael is most famous for the innovative nature of his monumental frescoes at the Vatican. Yet the inventiveness and groundbreaking graceful pictorial technique of his church altarpieces, paintings for private devotion (mostly depicting the Holy Family or the Virgin with Child), ceremonial portraits and portraits of friends, along with some of his finest drawings, all produced between 1513 and 1520, mean these works are also of major historic and artistic importance. One of the first artists to use oil on canvas as well as on wood, abandoning the clear preparations of his contemporaries in favour of coloured preparations or undercoats of varied colours, and continuing some of the experimental work of Leonardo da Vinci on groups containing several figures, the painting of light and the countryside and chiaroscuro, with the highly contrasted treatment of light and shapes, Raphael succeeded in combining landscapes and faces.
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