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FocusOnRaphael #9

Date:

07/07/2020


FocusOnRaphael #9

Raphael, Studies for Minerva and other statues in the School of Athens, c.1508-10, metalpoint with white heightening on pink prepared paper, 27.4 x 20.1 cm. Presented by a Body of Subscribers in 1846, Ashmolean Museum WA1846.192.

Fluent as always in metalpoint, Raphael began with a schematic sketch of a man, his head seen in profile straining to look backwards over his left shoulder. The motif is similar to the head of the descending man in a related metalpoint drawing of two men on the stairs (see Focus on Raphael 8), but appears in reverse. Greater detail is given to the sinews of the neck and the prominent larynx, and the shading here indicates that the head is lit from the right. Setting aside this idea, Raphael turned the sheet around and carefully drew an architectural niche using ruler and compass. Within this he gradually built up in layers of lines and hatching an increasingly detailed study of the goddess Minerva, with her characteristic helmet, breastplate and shield decorated with Medusa’s head. Stray lines around the left arm and shoulder indicate the process of revision. In particular, the flurry of lines around the right arm and hand show Raphael changing his mind several times before arriving at his preferred solution for this difficult foreshortening. The artist liberally brushed on white heightening to enhance the highlights on what is intended as a piece of fictive sculpture for the right background of the School of Athens.

On the right, he plotted with the help of a ruler a series of three further niches, seen obliquely in receding perspective. Raphael appears to have enjoyed filling these with fragments of sculptural figures in a compositional game of hide and seek: reiterated knees march across the boundaries of their niches, while above them heads and arms alternate position in complementary rhythm.

Ben Thomas, art historian

Courtesy of the Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford.

Information

Date: Da Tuesday, July 07, 2020 a Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Entrance : Free


Location:

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3224