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FocusOnRaphael #10

Date:

08/05/2020


FocusOnRaphael #10

Raphael, Combat of five men, c.1508-10, red chalk over blind stylus, 37.7 x 27.9 cm. Presented by a Body of Subscribers in 1846, Ashmolean Museum WA1846.193.

This important sheet acted like an anthology of salient figural motifs for Raphael, summarising the progress he had made studying the heroic male nude during his time in Florence. Like so many of his compositional drawings it is built up additively, one discrete unit of form at a time, beginning with the impressive central figure. Poised to bring down a crushing blow on the enemy sprawled at his feet, he is composed in two halves and appears jointed at the waist. Raphael ensured that his concept would have an air of naturalism and immediacy by having a model test out this and other poses. The torso, expertly foreshortened head and muscular arms and shoulders are firmly modelled over a basic armature sketched with the stylus. Raphael deployed a variety of graphic gestures in red chalk: short, straight cross-hatchings, stacks of hooked strokes and longer curving lines that flow with the direction of the body’s forms. Below the lightly sketched loin-cloth the legs are less resolved, with fewer stylus indentations to guide the chalk. Here the points of emphasis where the artist pressed hard on the chalk indicate his focus on the problem of spatially orientating the knees.

Next Raphael planned the desperately twisting figure lying between the soldier’s legs with a flurry of stylus marks, focusing first on the head, torso and arms. He refined these in red chalk, probably testing his concept from the same model (both men wear a similar cap). The recumbent man’s legs are then worked around the legs of the standing man, in a way that obscures the precise relation of the right thigh and foot. Cast shadows ground the figure and indicate a light source from above and to the right. Raphael then drew the two figures to the right and left of the central figure, again re-posing his model. The figure to the right adopts a shield-bearing attitude and has a powerful back (recalling figures in Michelangelo’s Battle of Cascina cartoon), the contours of which are stressed with additional external hatching. The figure fleeing with head in hands again began as a torso; he has lightly drawn legs, one of which overlaps with the figure lying beneath it. Finally, the artist drew a fifth combatant, little more than a disembodied, screaming head menacing the man on the right.

Raphael used these studies for a fictive bas-relief below the statue of Apollo in the School of Athens, where much of the carefully drawn sprawling figure is obscured. He continued to mine this drawing as a resource, for example, reversing and adapting the central figure for the Massacre of the Innocents print that Marcantonio Raimondi engraved after his design.

Ben Thomas, art historian

Courtesy of the Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford.

Information

Date: Wednesday, August 05, 2020

Time: At 9:06 am

Organized by : ICI London

Entrance : Free


Location:

Online

3228