The exhibition was drawn entirely from the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts in Budapest. It focused on six drawings by Raphael and endeavoured to shed further light on his artistic legacy by including drawings by his most talented assistants and followers, as well as some outstanding prints from the period. It was the first occasion that the artist’s famous small panel, the Esterházy Madonna was exhibited in the context of drawings.
The volume, ‘Raphael: Drawings in Budapest’ accompanying the exhibition comprises a comprehensive reconsideration of the six drawings by Raphael preserved in the Museum of Fine Arts in Budapest, and for the first time, discusses his small panel, the Esterházy Madonna, with a focus on its underdrawing. Each work was integrated in the context of a broader aspect of the painter’s oeuvre and presented in the form of longer studies.
The Collection of Drawings and Prints in Budapest preserves six drawings by Raphael: an early study for his first Perugian altarpiece the Oddi Coronation of the Virgin, the study for St Jerome from his stay in Florence, the compositional sketch for the famous Disputa in the Vatican Palace, a powerful Angel Head, a unique preliminary drawing for the renowned Massacre of the Innocents engraved by Marcantonio Raimondi, and the fragile silverpoint Venus, a superb masterpiece of the High Renaissance.
Our collection is also remarkable for the drawings by Raphael’s pupils, including ten authentic works by his most successful former assistant Giulio Romano, fifteen by Perino del Vaga and three by Polidoro da Caravaggio. We also own a beautiful series of five drawings by Tommaso Vincidor representing Giochi di Putti for the Medici Tapestries. A remarkable study that has recently been attributed to Raphael’s close associate Marcantonio Raimondi was drawn immediately after the excavation of the Laocoön group and represents the statue in its original state before the addition of later supplements.
Beside the Antique young artists in Rome diligently copied Raphael’s works, and their studies quickly transmitted the master’s vocabulary throughout Italy. Parmigianino was an eminent artist of the new generation and one of the most original inventors of Italian Mannerism, many of whose Roman studies clearly reflect Raphael’s compositions. Raphael was a major source also for Battista Franco, who played an important role in the dissemination of Central Italian art in mid-sixteenth-century Venice.
Raphael was the first sixteenth-century painter who recognised the advantages of reproducing his compositions in print. From the early 1510s printmakers working closely with his workshop, above all the most eminent engraver of the period Marcantonio Raimondi, were conducting a very successful undertaking. The appointment of Baviero de’ Carocci, Raphael’s former assistant to supervise the publication of prints after the painter’s designs marks the birth of the highly organized print publishing business in Rome. Along with Marcantonio Raimondi’s engravings, works by the most excellent printmakers, such as Jacopo Caraglio, Agostino Veneziano and Marco Dente, as well as by the outstanding chiaroscuro woodcutter Ugo da Carpi well illustrate Raphael’s dominant role in contemporary Italian printmaking.
The sixty masterpieces in the exhibition demonstrate Raphael’s genius as well as the next generation’s relation to his unparalleled artistic legacy. It is the first occasion that the Esterházy Madonna is exhibited in the context of drawings. Its underdrawings, visible even to the naked eye, supported by a recent technical analysis, offers an extraordinary occasion to understand Raphael’s working method. The exhibition provided occasion for a technical examination of Raphael’s drawings, which will be first published in the volume accompanying the show.
Zoltán Kárpáti and Eszter Seres
Raphael: Drawings in Budapest
English text, pp. 160, with 90 illustrations
The last comprehensive evaluation of Raphael’s Budapest drawings was offered by Loránd Zentai in his exhibition catalogue of 1998, devoted to sixteenth-century Central Italian drawings of the collection. His entries incorporated the results of events and exhibitions held in 1983 to honour the five-hundredth anniversary of Raphael’s birth. Since the 1998 catalogue, Raphael’s Budapest drawings have not formed the subject of in-depth discussion.
Following a lull in activity immediately after the anniversary year, the study of Raphael has gained renewed impetus in the last decade. Volumes of the new catalogue raisonée by Jürg Meyer zur Capellen on Raphael’s paintings have been published consecutively since 2001. A magisterial collection of documents relating to Raphael’s life and work, compiled and annotated by John Shearman, appeared in 2003. A comprehensive account of the artist has been given in two recent exhibitions. The first in 2004 at the National Gallery, London, curated by Hugo Chapman, Tom Henry and Carol Plazzotta, was devoted to Raphael’s formative years and early activity in Rome, while the second, a joint exhibition organized by Tom Henry and Paul Joannides in the Louvre and the Prado in 2012–13, covered his late Roman period. In addition to the principal articles written on Raphael, new research on the painter’s influential older colleagues and his most gifted assistants has broadened our understanding of Raphael’s art.
The present exhibition, drawn entirely from our collection, focuses on drawings by Raphael, and endeavours to shed further light on his artistic legacy by including drawings by his most talented assistants, as well as some outstanding prints from the period. As part of the preparations of the exhibition a research project was carried out by András Fáy, chief conservator of the Museum of the Fine Arts in Budapest, on Raphael’s drawings as well as the Esterházy Madonna. Ultraviolet and infrared imaging provided information on the materials of the drawings and their condition, the results of which have contributed to the studies in this volume. In the case of drawings the ultraviolet radiation was used in the property of 366 nm and infrared in the range of 1100–1200 nm. In addition, the Esterházy Madonna was also examined with ultraviolet reflective imaging technique at 403 nm.
As preparation for the exhibition proceeded, we realized that the flurry of recent publications on the artist, combined with the new, detailed findings on the drawings’ technique garnered from recent technical imaging, presented the case for a comprehensive reconsideration of Raphael’s Budapest drawings. Accordingly, it was decided that the accompanying publication would focus on Raphael’s six sheets and on the Esterházy Madonna, included in the exhibition for its clearly visible underdrawing. However, as six drawings and a single panel are far from sufficient to outline Raphael’s entire career, each is integrated in the context of a broader aspect of the painter’s œuvre, presented in the form of longer studies.
Raphael’s early pen drawing for his first Perugian altarpiece, the Coronation of the Virgin, facilitated a reassessment of his relationship with two painters who were instrumental in his early career, Pietro Perugino and Bernardino Pintoricchio. The Saint Jerome, drawn in Florence, demonstrates Raphael’s new approach to figure studies, in which the pattern-book tradition of the Perugino workshop came up against the innovative method of anatomical drawing perfected by Leonardo and Michelangelo at the turn of the sixteenth century. The Massacre of the Innocents, one of Raphael’s most fervently debated sheets, demanded a clarification of its possible function, which could only be explained in the light of the Roman printmaking enterprise of Raphael and Marcantonio Raimondi.
The only painting in this volume, the small-scale Esterházy Madonna is included for its underdrawing, detectible even to the naked eye under the most transparent layers. For the first time, high-resolution infrared reflectographs were taken of the unfinished panel work, revealing its underdrawing in its entirety, and thus providing new insight into Raphael’s method of painting. His pen sketch of putti and an angel for the Disputa, frescoed in the Stanza della Segnatura in the Vatican Palace, raises the issue of the painter’s constraints when accommodating his previous preparatory methods with the growing demands placed upon him. The silverpoint Venus, one of the artist’s most beautiful female nudes drawn in all’antica style, illustrates his close connection with classical antiquity, and reveals how Raphael reutilized his motifs in a number of works. Finally, the impressive chalk drawing of an angel, destined for a fresco in the Sala di Costantino, prompted a review of Raphael’s Roman workshop practices, and served to highlight the difference between the approach of modern connoisseurship and the Renaissance definition of the artist’s hand.
Contact | e-mail: zoltan.karpati (at) szepmuveszeti (dot) hu | phone: +36 1 469 7130
Eszter Seres joined the Department of Prints and Drawings in 2001 and returned after a four years maternity leave in 2008. She is curator of Italian and French Renaissance prints. She was co-curator of the Museum’s exhibitions Turn of the Century 1900: European Drawings and Prints in 2001, Northern Italian Renaissance Drawings in 2003, The Alchemy of Beauty: Parmigianino: Drawings and Prints and Turner and Italy in 2009, participated in many other shows of the Department of Prints and Drawings, and contributed in the editorial work of various exhibition catalogues. She is working on her PhD dissertation on Roman printmaking in the circle of Raphael.
Contact | e-mail: eszter.seres (at) szepmuveszeti (dot) hu | phone: +36 1 469 7135