As a painter, Rafael had left some evidence to the feelings and attitude he developed to holiness.
Rafael has painted synagogues (places holy for Jews) although he had never been to them. As a result, the synagogues are not painted like they should – man and woman sit together and the priest stands on his knees.
In one of his paintings, Rafael describes Jesus wedding as taken in a square, in front of the Temple in Jerusalem. One may find this picture to express spurn to the Jewish religion. I suggest that Rafael tried to paint the holy places as primed by his experience of Christianity. Rafael imagines Judaism with grandiose ceremonies accompanying the ordinary man’s life.
In the square there are many people. Some are dealing with money, while others are eating/drinking. By one of the corners, on the upper left steps, there is a man urinating. Taking a closer look to the pillar near the person, and you may identify a hidden character that seems to be a beggar.
I personally believe that Rafael had critical eye when considering Judaism. You cannot miss the fact that the temple is empty of people and objects, looking more like a monument than a holy place. Looking at the picture make the temple seems to be lacking any atmosphere of sanctity. Jesus does not marry inside the temple but outside of it, as Rafael cannot image that place to be holy enough to marry a couple.
In another picture, “Predella Oddi”, which is also in the Vatican, there is a God in the sky sending a bird (which represents the Holy Spirit) to impregnate Saint Maria. Simultaneously, God summons angel Gabriel (who is painted with black wings) into the scene. In contrast to the common image of angels as “pure”, Rafael chooses to paint Gabriel with black wings. The blackness in the background of Christianity is immediately raising the connotation of death, making the viewer a repulse towards Judaism. In the picture, we see the angel bringing a present for Maria’s wedding, the Madonna lily flower. A romantic banal picture? Well, here is a twist: When flopping the picture, you may find the bouquet becoming a cursing monster:
In a third great picture, “Jesus Circumcision”, you may see a religious ritual near outside the temple yard, at the church’s territory. The big priest is trying to capture the baby, and Maria (who should not be there as for her being a Jew) is there holding Jesus. It seems that Jesus wants to stay in the hands of Maria, as Rafael refuses to distinguish whether Jesus finds this circumcision welcome.
Transfiguration Of Jesus
The following image is one of Rafael’s final works. It is not clear whether it was painted by him or by his students. What we do know for sure is that this picture’s first draft was painted by Rafael, and I may add that this picture is a great example of Rafael’s ability to express philosophical ideas through paintings.
The picture, which is very well known, represents Rafael’s inner world view. In the picture, we may be false to think that Jesus is at the moment he is transfiguring from a human being into a God; that this moment, which is so central in the picture’s vision, is actually happening. But I believe that Rafael is trying to tell us that this is only the blind and unconscious kid’s dream.
The main theme in the picture is actually the debate taking place between the people over the truthiness of the vision. Looking at the man in the right side wearing red clothe, you may also find him insisting that whatever is happening is rubbish, and we shall be focusing other subjects which are more important.
I believe that this man is representing Rafael’s opinion towards sanctity. Rafael is criticizing Christianity, for being based on an illusion. The little kid is symbolizing Jesus’ story, mocking their unrealistic basis. The appearance of books in the picture is an evidence for Rafael’s frustration from educated people who claim to talk in favor of the importance of the illusions.
I believe Rafael is not criticizing Christianity as a whole, but he rather asks us think about our beliefs and not take them for granted.