Rafael Sanzio – Behind the ambiguity of his Paintings
In many of Rafael’s pictures, two narratives lay together. One which is exposed and relevant, while the other can be found if one knows the hidden norms. When using Photoshop, flipping and researching the picture, one can find the hidden narrative and the real interest of the pictures.
Mostly, the two narratives are not connected to each other. Nevertheless, sometimes they contradict.
Take Nicola da Tolentino hefor instance:
While the exposed narrative portrays God crowning Nicola and giving him divine permission to rule – in the same picture appears this image of Cherub. The cherub appears to have both human breast and a male genital, is a way of mocking the crowning, not sure what the artist is up to implying.
Such co-existence of narrative can also portray two pictures rather than one. I would like to give the example of Disputa and Scuola di Atena: In the former picture the pope Julius the second was painted as the “closest man to the sky”, while in a hidden narrative of a different picture he his mocked in a way that wouldn’t shame the sharpest satire.
If you observed the picture where Jesus reaches his grave (entombment), you may notice Atalanta. She was the mother of a horrible man, Griffoneto, whom was very rich and arrogant. He could not walk across the street without arousing criticism. Being a pretty cruel man, Griffoneto became the head of the local Mafia. The role made him even more furious than his nature and soon many enemies arouse to him.
Some years after he died, Rafael had to make him a memorial; which ended in some caricature-like picture. One of the mocking signs I like to example it with are the love signs that the son’s fiancee receives from other men in the tribe; all under the radar of the characters within and the viewers outside (Chapter 1).
Chapter 1: Rafael Sanzio
In contrast to what commonly known, Rafael is an interesting person. Chaim believes that when observing the three great artists of his time – Michelangelo, Leonardo and Rafael, the latter is the most talented of all. Rafael charmed me, as the most enchanting and interesting of all. Leonardo and Michelangelo weren’t as great as him.
Rafael enchanted me because of two main characteristics which led him throughout his work. First of all, Rafael has proven to be a know-all, in contrast to the sanctimonious traits he is known to be familiar with. In his paintings, he was liberal and interesting. Mocking some heroes in the New Testament, and painted them in conflict situation without making them Utopian.
Another major reason Rafael has caught me was his leading abilities and professional attitude. Rafael was leading a great number of artists (about a hundred), using them to form a productive unit together. His say still made it to the paintings although many of them had better technical abilities and the great age differences.
In the pictures below, there are three figures from the New Testament (Right To Left: Jesus’s Mother, Jesus and Yohanan the Baptist). Observing the picture of close, you may find a conflict lying within the image.
Jesus is presented as the leader of the Christianity, with colorful ideal picture in his background. But despite this ideal background, Yohanan and his mother are in a conflict: Yohanan is touching Jesus thigh, trying to pressure him to go with him. As a result, Jesus’s mother reacts in an attempt to step him away from her son.
Madonna Della Alba
Tondo 98 cm (radius); Location: National Gallery of Art, Washington
Before we go on to the next pictures, I must share with you a few more words about the former one. Rafael was not only an artist, but a theoretician. Using Photoshop is a great tool to getting a deep reading in Rafael’s paintings. I found the power distribution in this picture interesting, between Yohanan – who represents a group of homosexuals and pederasts, Jesus – who has the main line of Christianity, and Maria – the woman, who represents the line that is opposing the effect of Yohanan. Taking a brief look at the picture, you may think this picture is boring. But when looking deeper in the picture, it brings up the question: “why are the kids undressed?”.This might be because the artists wanted to express that he believed that Jesus was uncircumcised.
The following picture may impress you for its size. It is Julius’s private office – a giant hall, full of pictures. In the next pictures, I will give you my answer to the identity of the character sitting in the center of the right picture. A hint: It won’t be Diogene, as mostly known.
In the next picture, please pay attention to the person in the middle, the one who lies alone on the stairs and read a piece of paper. He is solitary, he does not take care of himself, barefoot. It is mostly thought that this person is Diogene, the skeptical Greek that lived in a barrel.
After looking really close at the picture, it becomes clear that there has been some covering up. Notice how dirty his legs are, how wild his hair is… His position is also idiotic, and he does not notice his surroundings. I personally believe that this person, in the draft of the picture, was also laying in his own excrement.
But who is this person? After focusing at several pictures of Rafael, I had realized that this person is actually Julius, the pope. Very strange and ironic, especially in the time when Julius was a kind of dictator. You may judge it yourself by comparing “Portraint of Julius II” and “Scuola Di Athena“:
Portrait of Julius II; 1511; Oil on wood; National Gallery, London
Notice how Rafael portrays Julius. How dirty his hands/nails are, how he holds a bag that seems to be intended for excrement. The pope’s beard is portraying deep desperation: Julius, a veteran, had put a ultimatum to his generals. He told them that until they were to conquer and unite the legal borders of the Vatican country, he wouldn’t take off his beard.
In the picture below (“Misa In Bolsena“), that clearly shows how the pope looks in the eyes of Rafael – the pope is transported by “roman litter”(a palanquin/lifter). It is disputed which of the lifters is Rafael, but it is mostly agreed that one of them is Rafael.
Julius is looking with some sort of revulsion at the people around him. His surroundings are mostly skeptical about the religious ceremony. They did not come to search for regret from God, but to touch each other. In the full picture, it is clear that each of them is trying to erotically touch the person near him. When looking below, women brought there children naked(why would they be naked in a picture? Did they bring them to sell them?). At the left side, people are almost fulfilling there eroticism. On the upper right side, each person is embracing the one nearby him. Also, after checking each person – I had found a hand that did not belong to anybody. The hand is used to emphasize the motive of the touching.
The expulsion of Heliodors from the Temple, 1512 (fragment of the Fresco)
Fresco, Stancza di Eliodoro, Vatican Museums, Vatican city
Before we introduce you to Julius, you may want to understand the context in which Julius lived.
When Julius the II started his rule, Catholic inner conflicts were nothing but new. Since about 100 years before him the Catholics distributed, as some stayed in Rome while the majority immigrated France in Avignon. What happened de facto is that the Catholic leadership moved to France.
After an inner Catholic conflict which had been lasting for a 100 years, the catholics moved back to the Vatican.
Julius the II
Apart from being a dictator, Julius was also vehemently upset. Julius used to be yelling all the time, anything he said – was obeyed to be operated. Julius was not open to other opinions – even though his projects failed systematically, he was not open to change his ways.
Because of his fear of being assassinated, he raised a private army of guards. The guards were mostly from Switzerland (while by that time this country held the finest army), and their uniform were very weird with outlandish colors. Imagine soldiers wearing women cloth, absolutely provocative.
This kind of life had led him to a deep desperation, which Rafael is trying to portray in the picture. It was like everybody were laughing at him – the richest men in the Vatican is the man lying on the floor.
I must mention that the pope after him, Leo the tenth was not blessed with any more sense of financial responsibility. His slogan was “if God chose me to be the pope – let me enjoy it”.
The following picture is very large one. In this picture, there are a huge number of significant religious characters. The characters are divided into four levels, as in the upper one lays God, the second level is Jesus and the rest of the prophets and other religious leaders. The third level is the “sky level”, which consists of ‘energies’. It is easy to notice in this level the pigeon, which portrays people’s imagination of the “Holy Spirit”. And on the fourth level – the human level.
This picture is called “Disputa”(“The Dispute”). This picture does not concentrate on the disputes between people, but between philosophies and powers. You may find many contradicted characters – Jesus sits near Mohammed, Moses and David. The desperation of the dispute is described by Jesus’ lift of his hands.
Another thing you may notice, is the way that God is portrayed not only remind the pope but almost identical to him:
The mysterious bird – Observing the picture “La Madona del Granduca”
“La Madona del Granduca”; Galleria Palatina, Firenze; Dimensions 84 cm × 55 cm (33 in × 22 in)
Type: Oil on wood
Unless your eyes are equipped with some version of Photoshop, you could not notice it in the regular picture. Now some zoom in ones:
I have met this bird in many other picture. The bird may appear in the picture or right next to the image in the frame. In a major part of Rafael pictures – 1 or 2 birds are appearing. Why is that?
In my opinion, this bird is a signature of someone who was dealing with this picture. An artist, a museum; somebody who wanted to mark this picture as his property. Let us not forget that by this time, people have never signed on their pictures. Rafael have never signed picture except from one time (while at this specific occurrence, it is almost for sure not his picture).
One great picture in which the bird is noticed is “Madona Norton”:
Another picture in which this bird has appeared is the “Madona Del Cardolino”(Notice that the fact that “Cardolino” means bird does not relate to the signature but to a different bird that appears here). Yohanan is trying to bribe Jesus by giving/offering/bringing him a bird. You may think that Jesus would be bribed for political ambitions, but you have to notice that the boys are both naked. When talking about politics – you’re not supposed to be naked, while in eroticism you should.
According to the New Testament, Yohanan was the strong figure. He had a lot of people and power. It seems like the Madona is trying to help Jesus escape from the pressure of Yohanan and stick to his destiny.
Madonna del Cardolino (Madonna of the goldfinch). C.1506; oil on wood; 111 X 77.5 cm; Galleria degi Uffizi Florence
The bird also appears in “Holy family with saint Yohanan the Baptist”(with Saint Yohanan the Baptist, Zacharias and Elizabeth in a Landscape, 1507-8). It seems that someone signed/drew the bird, intentionally trying to avoid damaging the picture.
”Holy Family with Saint Yohanan the Baptist”; C.1507-1508; pen and ink over traces of stylus and black chalk; 131 cm X 107 cm, Location: Muse des Beaux-Arts, Lille
And of course, “Holy family” from Prado museum (which is not surely Rafael’s work, and so not surely owns the same bird):
And distinguishing a different perspective…:
Haim is concerned with the decision of painting Jesus almost naked. What was that for? We currently believe it might have something to do with cluing that Jesus was uncircumcised in the artists’ opinion. Any one with an idea may leave a comment or write me on facebook – Chaim Tzairi.
Rafael Is Dealing With Human Rights
In his famous picture, “School Of Athena”, Rafael expressed his sympathy to human rights; by discussing about their value at ancient Greece. Rafael has presented human being sold in the main corners, pictures of violent sex and rape. Not only that there is a contradiction between the great city that appears in the picture to these injustices; but there is also a gap between the paganism that characterized Athens to Christianity. The gap is used to express that Christianity has taken society a step forward to a bit more just society.
As you might see at the second picture below, the man with the hat is trying to sell the one without the shirt, and the man on the right(the one who lifts his hand) insist that he, personally, would rather the person behind the slave-seller.
But remember who’s in the center:
All these praises are fading when realizing that the character in the middle is actually Julius the second. Rafael simply tells us: “The church is in charge, but we’re still barbarians”.
And what about that picture?
In the picture below, you may have noticed the women standing at the center, Maria Magdalena, sending her hand to Jesus. She is a known figure, she was a prostitute that was purred by Jesus. If you look closer, her hand is actually getting into the shirt of the man in yellow(and her foot has also a part in it). The man in yellow is a very rich known man, who got the right to bury Jesus. It seems that he wants a little more than that right… Notice how he lays his foot on her, as if he told her “Jesus is dead, but I am still here”.
(You may also notice other people trying to avoid looking at that hand and Jesus’ mother who has fainted)
You may notice the strange choice of putting Jesus’ genitalia in the middle of the picture. The painter chose to paint what he thinks and the picture he views in his mind is portrayed to us. The whole construction of the pink fabric was used only to emphasize “the holy erection”.
Rafael chooses to mock the image instead of portraying the holy event. The picture is somewhat hilarious and does not banally sanctify the entombment. He wants to mock it – instead of painting the prophet’s genitalia naturally, he choose to emphasize it and by that express his lack of respect to it.
Chapter 2 – Parnassus – The Greeks are infiltrating
Parnassus, 1510-11; Fresco; Stanza dëlla Segnatura, Vatican Museums, Vatican City
Parnassus, one of the pictures from the Pope’s room, portrays the paganism that overflows the church. You can see all the leaders of the literary world, from the golden age of Athens and Rome. At the middle of the picture, you may identify Homerus, the great author of mythology. He is attributed with great myths, such as the War Of Troy, the Golden Fleece, Odyssey, etc.
The following picture holds a fabulous narrative. In the picture, there’s the exhibited dimension. In this dimension, everything is ideal. Apollo is playing his violin and everyone are happy. A pretty boring narrative.
In contrast to the former, the second narrative makes the picture a lot more interesting. In the hidden dimension, you may notice that every character has a secret of his/her own:
At the middle-lower part of the picture, lays Sappho. Sappho is considered a liberal poet. Sappho used to write odes, and in the same time wrote pornographic materials. Her name is written on the paper she holds, but what is she doing? I find it very interesting to know why is her face in front of the man’s hands. I believe the woman has performed oral sex to the guy close to her:
A second secret may be attributed to the guys on the left:
The two guys are “communicating” trough their feet. This gesture symbolizes a homosexual relationship. Would you like to behold another secret?
Parnassus (detail), 1510-11; Fresco; Stanza dëlla Segnatura, Vatican Museums, Vatican City
So how are these secrets contributing the picture? Rafael uses the quite hilarious and shocking secrets in the pictures to criticize paganism. The characters within it symbolizes the myths and odes attached to the pagan world.
My opinion is that museums, when giving only ten minutes per picture, without giving any written information about it; are making a mistake. A mistake as the viewer is unable to understand and enjoy the whole picture, literally. I would present near the original pictures copies, with explanations, arrows and other visual instructions. I believe that without this understanding, many have the right reason to believe these pictures are boring.
Chapter 3 – Misa in Bolsena
Apart from being a catholic dictator, Julius the second was also vehemently upset. Julius used to be yelling all the time, anything he said – was obeyed to be operated. Julius was not open to other opinions – even though his projects failed systematically, he was not open to change his ways. (By systematically we are not cluing that Julius had always failed. That would be a distortion, as he had some great projects. He is the one who rebuilt the Basilica and founded an army the served the pope. But – despite his many successes, Julius had failed many projects due to arrogance.)
Because of his fear of being assassinated (as there were many people who wished to cause a religious revolution), he raised a private army of guards. The guards were mostly from Switzerland (while by that time this country held the finest army), and their uniforms were very weird with outlandish colors. Imagine soldiers wearing women cloth, absolutely provocative.
This kind of life had led him to a deep desperation, which Rafael is trying to portray in the picture. It was like everybody were laughing at him – the richest men in the Vatican is the man lying on the floor.
I must mention that the pope after him, Leo the tenth wasn’t much more successful financially.
According to the New Testament, before Jesus died, he told his supporters not to be sad, as the his blood will remain in their wine and his flesh will become the bread they are fed with. You may notice the ritual in the picture. In this ritual, which is called “liturgy”, the Catholics are asking for forgiveness from God.
Only the priest can listen to those who’re asking for the forgiveness, but he cannot see them. After the people have finished confessing all their weekly sins, the priest puts little pieces of bread in each of their mouths.
The picture describes the process of making the bread – leaving the bread in the church for a night till it is covered by “blood”.
Science explains this as there’s a bacteria called “Serratia marcescens”, whose color is red. While the authorities knew it was a deception, the common believers thought of it as the very proof of Jesus’ existence.
Every person at Misa receives his piece of bread to directly to his mouth, symbolizing the connection of him and Jesus’ body. This process is called consecration. Despite the Misa’s success, some priests insisted they are refusing to deceive the public.
An interesting point about the picture –
When checking closely, you may notice that while the pope is “supervising” the coloring of the bread, the people in the picture are not really in the spiritual ecstasy. Quite the opposite, the men in the picture are trying to touch the women around them, what brings us again to the old mystery – why would the pope invite pictures that contradict the religious contents?!
I want to focus on the left side of the picture.
The people here, seems as if they are in some religious ecstasy. Nevertheless, the actual situation conceals a very different reality. The people are looking for other reasons to enjoy their living. Some sell their children, some caress the men around them etc.
This lack of interest in the holiness of the place is the hilarious way in which Rafael criticizes the lack of respect of this ceremony. Rafael uses the motive of the hand ironically, as to emphasize the fraud. Instead of lifting their hands to truffle for holiness, the people are seeking to touch each other to satisfy their needs.
Chapter 4 – Rafael in the “Service” of the Pope
In the Catholic Church, the pope has dual role: the pope is not only the governor of the Vatican country, but also the highest religious authority.
The picture above was painted in his bedroom, about nine meters height. But unlike the respect you would expect from such a picture, it appears to be critisizing the policy of the church’s cruelly way of handling the invaders. Instead of focusing on the glory of victory, the picture draws our attention towards the slaughter. I find this picture the harshest one.
Watching this bloodbath, all these pictures being executed… How could the merciful icon of the Catholic Church be mocked like this in his own bedroom? Why did he invite a picture that shows him ignoring the suffering?
Chapter 5 – The Nudity in Rafael’s Work
The picture below is the Rafael’s first use of nudity in his paintings. Some might even say that this was a crucial step in the process of him becoming a famous artist.
The Three Graces, 1504, Oil on panel, 17.1cnX 17.1cm. Location: Musée Condé, Santuario, Chantilly (France)
The nudity is catching the viewer’s attention. The use of nudity is provocative, being very innovative for that time. You may be interested to know that the picture above is not based on real women, not even a single one. Rafael’s first picture of naked women was inspired by an ancient sculpture he found in the library. Bet you probably did not imagine it was a painting of a sculpture 🙂
Before that time, artists had been able to undress Jesus only when crusaded. That sort of nudity increases the identification with Jesus’ suffering. It was easier to undress Jesus as a baby, because it was relatively less offensive. But in contrast to the convention, Rafael redesigned the form of nudity, painting the fabric around Jesus’ genitalia in a red-like color. Besides, the fabric itself formed a man’s genitalia like form. As the time passed, Rafael replaced the cloth with fabric, covering only the upper body of the character.
In the pictures which followed, little Jesus is facing the public being naked, while exposing that he was uncircumcised. In order to emphasize the suffering of Jesus, Rafael used the “contrapposto” technique ( http://goo.gl/zEHO9L , http://goo.gl/HGG2zp ).
It is undoubted that the variety of positions expressed the inner preferences of the artist.
In renaissance time, it was a causal incident to come by ducks and swans. Unlike the human anatomy, these birds’ sexual activity is circular, giving it the connotation of a very pleasurable act. When he was painting women, Rafael allowed himself to undress their cloth. In one of his paintings, he introduces a swan in the picture, cluing that he is her mate. By painting the swan’s genitalia, the renaissance aged viewer is immediately making the required linkage.
 As an experienced vet, Haim originally noticed the connection Rafael inserted between the naked woman and the masculine genitalia. It is common among birds that while practicing sexual activity, the act is rotational (as opposed to “normally” pushing back and forward). Putting the genitalia near the head is not a one time incident. Haim has found that the connection between the naked woman and masculine genitalia is widely caught in paintings belonged to Rafael.
La Fornarina, Oil on panel, 1518–1520, 85X60cm^2, Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica
The name is given after one of Rafael’s preferable women, who was used as a model to Rafael’s in the last stage of his career. This was one of his last paintings, as eventually Rafael died out of over stressing work. I personally prefer that painting, as it is a very beautiful one. I have first seen La Fornarina in Rome, while I was in Barberini palace. On the hand of La Fornarina, you may notice the peace of fabric signed by Rafael. I hope you would find it interesting as I had. Why should it be interesting? Because Rafael’s name is misspelled. It is the only picture signed by Rafael, and it is misspelled. Strange, isn’t it?
Rafael Is Criticizing Sexual Habits
In the picture “Scuola di Atene“, Rafael represents a controversial bargain – selling of men in the market on daylight. In this awful negotiation, you may notice the man on the right insisting that he rathers the other slave, not the one he has been offered.
The second involves what seems to be compulsive sex:
And finally, a man undressing a woman (or another man?) :
The little naked boy’s hand left hand is extending to the right man hand, holding it smoothly. The boy is undoubtly proffering himself (count the fingers).
You may wonder how comes such sexual variety catches a place in the Pope’s room. In order to understand this, we have to realize what is the meaning of “Scuola di Athena” (=school of Athens). Athens, in the age relevant to the picture, was the great religion that preceded Christianity. In renaissance time, many people put Athens time as a better alternative to the world. People could believe whatever they wanted and so on.
When Julius came, there came the Inquisition, that putted end to this variety of believes.
In this picture there is some kind of a “warning”- ‘there is your destiny, liberal people. Your ways will end us with a country morally corrupted, where people can be bough and sexual habits are violent and unnatural’.
Chapter 6 – The Madonna(s)
Throughout his entire career, Rafael had been excellenting in painting women. A major part of his pictures have been given the title “Madonna”, 29 of these “Madonna” titled pictures are known to be belonged to Rafael himself for sure (while others have been produced in his workshop but it’s hard to confirm they were his). When observing part of his pictures, many of the women can be seen as “religious icons”, as they have become to be known as objects with mystical powers. One of the changes I appreciate in Rafael’s work, is the conceptual change Rafael has lead about the image of the “Saint Madonna”. The “Madonna Image” had been changed from a woman covered with sanctity, to a more modern image. An image in which the Madonna is a real woman, young and modest, lacking all arrogance.
During the time, Rafael’s paintings have been through evolution. Baby Jesus lost his cloths, changed his side from “side”to “front”. I suspect that it is shown in order to emphasize Jesus was uncircumcised, in contrast to the New Testament. Apart from this religious purpose, presenting the genitals, are catching the viewer’s attention.
It seems that it reached a point that artists started creating pictures which included “hidden from view” genitals, in order to catch the precious attention. Sounds imaginary? Well. . .
Madonna as Jesus’ Mother
Madonna represents Jesus’ mother, by portraying the image of her as Rafael comprehended. But the way Rafael comprehended Madonna was not static. We may not know what influenced the change in the way Rafael comprehended Madonna, but this change took Madonna from a passive and almost inanimate character to taking an active rule.
The actual figure of Jesus’ mother is not very much known to archeologists. Jesus did not write a single word, also his close company (which consisted mostly of illiterate people). The stories about Jesus’ family have developed largely, even larger than the myth covering the story of Jesus himself. Comparing the stories about his family indicates that much of the information is not true. The image of Jesus’ mother had the perfect conditions to evolve.
Maria’s image hasn’t been found anywhere till about 300-400 CE, at the Santa Katherine Monastery (in the Sinai Peninsula).
The Public’s World View Reflects and Changes Rafael’s Art
The image of the Madonna, as portrayed in Rafael’s pictures, has been threw some changes. Rafael, being not only a painter but an artist and theoretician, changed the “Madonna” in his pictures drastically throughout the years.
If we are to observe the first pictures which belonged to this subject, we may describe the “Madonna” as inert woman, almost not functioning. Her “job” in the picture, is just… to be. She’s doing nothing more than being. In a great contrast, when observing the latter pictures, the Madonna is a dominant figure, which has a major rule in restraining Yohanan. The Madonna figure is presented with much more “human” traits. A figure with opinion who does not accept Yohanan.
Well… What’s the reason for that change?
At first, pictures of Madonna were artistic figures only. While the time passed – they became mystical icons. Figures which were comprehended as having mystical powers. In order to make it a figure for every house, one that before going to the kitchen in the morning, people will go praying her. Go Praying for Maria. The Madonna had to fit more tangible rule – the human rule.
By the way, this was not a time which the mystical icons were received without criticism. Quite the opposite – this was the beginning of a time in which people started to question that kind of rituals.
So How Does It Effect The Pictures?
The number of characters in the pictures is growing, and the relations between the characters is completely different. At first, the characters are “fitting” to each other, but as the picture proceeds, the relations are getting complicated. There are conflicts between characters. The most interesting conflict is the one between Jesus and his mother. The first “perfect mother-child relationship” is transformed into a complex one. Jesus is trying to escape his mother, so he can achieve his own ambitions. You may ask yourself “why is the boy naked?”. I believe that this nudity is used to emphasize the closeness between Jesus and his mother.
In part of the pictures, you may find Maria holding a book. There is a story that tells that Jesus “read” the book and found his “destiny”, and decided to fulfill it. His little knew ambition is raising a conflict with his mother.
Another major conflict is between Yohanan and Jesus’ mother. By the final pictures, Madonna is trying to stop Jesus from cooperating with Yohanan, whose group symbolized homosexuality (an unaccepted thing for a family like Jesus had).
Haim had reached some sort of conjecture, that in order for something to include mystical value, Rafael inputs some conflict to it. A conflict that is stealthily determined.
Madonna del Folingo
By 1511, a meteorite reached the town Foligno. Its explosion occurs at the center of the town, not far from Conty’s house. Conty was one of the Pope’s associates. By “miracle”, Conty’s property was perfectly saved without any damages. To celebrate it, he ordered a picture to describe and commemorate it.
In the picture, you can see the meteorite falling:
I think that the artist and the purchaser were both detached of their community. Just think how apathetic should they had been to comprehend it as a miracle.
Around saint Maria and Jesus appears to be a religious discussion. While the priest puts his hand on Conty’s head (as to thank him for the miracle?), you can identify the cherub and Saint Yohanan on land along with them.
Instead of taking credits, Yohnan point up to the sky as if he says “This was not me but a little gesture from Christ”.
Chapter 7: A Snake Head to the Editor
Scuola di Atene; fresco; detail; c.1509-1511; Location: Apostolic Palace, Vatican City
Shooting a famous picture should be taken after thinking. Thinking and planning how to pass on the whole ideas the picture contains.
Going over pictures made me realize the differences between a good editor and an amateur one. Some editors allowed themselves to delete important little details. Important as they had a major impact on the ideas the picture had passed.
In the following picture, the editor abandoned the snake. The head of the snake (circled in green) disappeared from the picture, without even getting severance package. Why did the editor fire the snake? Probably because the use of snake was “reducing the esthetics” of the picture from the editor’s point of view (because the snake is “repulsive”/”dirty”).
Scuola di Atene; fresco; detail; c.1509-1511; Location: Apostolic Palace, Vatican City
I believe it had a major role. The snake, as a scary and mysterious character, catches the viewer’s attention.
In one of Rafael’s most famous pictures, Scuola di Athene, the oriental hero is presented with a snake on his shoulder. The hero is looking at the woman near him as if he is trying to hypnotize her. The snake is making the scene more real for the viewer, as for the feelings it carries with it.
By the year 2000, the snake head disappeared and with it our oriental hero is losing his place in the interest list. Apart from the unfairness towards our unfortunate hero, editing the snake’s head is problematic for the viewer. The common viewer usually invest several hours in the museums to learn and understand a bit of pictures he does not know, and the museum has to give him the tools to understand the picture as a whole. Editing the snake, well; I believe it to be missing the point.
In the picture Parnassus, Rafael describes the Muses gathered by Apollo. Playing his violin, Apollo does not notice that under his leg there is a long black snake. Will the snake get to encounter the muse? Will they become friends, or will it harm her to her death? Are we fronting a tragedy or a start of a new role for snakes? This little story is quite major in the picture’s plot. Deleting it, well… It may have left us with a beautiful picture, but its interest is nothing compared to what it was before.
You may identify the snake by yourself. Watch how he is lying on the ground preparing to bite the Muse:
Well, we will let you imagine what will happen after the snake will (or will not?) bite the muse and how the harmony of the picture will (or will not?) be distrusted.
The snake’s role in damaging the harmony is also clued by its victim identity. The muse it is about to bite is Euterpe, the muse of dancing. As such, the snake’s victim symbolizes the kind of result the bite will have.
Why do you think the snake was deleted? I wonder whether editors realized it was a snake or not. Did they really preferred the picture to be “cleaner” and “esthetic” rather than interesting? Well, maybe they have just found it to be unnecessary.
Chapter 8: Student’s Column
The Friend In The Curtain – Rafael’s Student Shows Great Abilities
This very fine picture was actually painted by Rafael’s student. It is a small (0.3 meters height), painted in oil on fruitwood picture, which for many years has been laid in the palace of a famous Englishman. The picture was purchased by a museum for a very a great fortune (by 2006). It is actually not rare to identify masterpieces with students of great artists, as many of them used to relate the picture to the master to make a fortune.
The picture represents Madonna carrying little Jesus on her knees, as both characters hold pink carnation. The picture is well famous today due to the price it was purchased with, which was considered to be absolutely not proportional as for a picture by an unknown student, but I beg to differ. After making some research about the picture with my computer, I was surprised to find out that there’s another hero in the picture hiding here. It is hiding behind the curtain and is not acting very appropriately, to say the least. I think that by hiding the character the painter used a technique that certainly leveled up the picture.
Madonna of the Pinks
Chapter 9: Rafael Defines a New Way of Painting
The nature of art is to stimulate your brain, in order to make you feel things that are beyond what you see. When focusing at a character in a picture, such feeling can be well produced when the character “stares” at you back.
Self -Portrait with a Friend; c.1518-1520; Oil on canvas; 99cm X 83cm; Louvre, Paris
The artist’s work is to produce this feeling in order to express his ideas effectively. In order to do so, the artist has to distinguish the very little details to draw our attention. So what does that mean?
The artist has to distinguish where and how to portray each character, where each character has to be located and how much attention should each character demand.
Much of the techniques Rafael used to make his paintings more realistic were implementations of Leonardo de Vinci’s writings. Leonardo developed this subject and even wrote a book in which he describes how to paint a convincing painting for the viewer. He insisted that the characters which are to be most noticed should be in the center of the picture, while other main characters should create a pyramidal formation that expresses their importance.
Sistine Madonna; c.1512; Oil on Canvas; 265cm X 196 cm; Location: Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Dresden
You may have met these toy cherubs before on gift cards. Companies found these little two fitted for the role, but putting them on cards is clearly out of context. The cherubs are attending a tragic moment – the death of Julius. Julius invited this picture before he died, and got it after his death. He appears as the left character in the picture. If you take a closer look, you will notice the faces on the clouds whom are all crying.
The death of Julius is also symbolized by the abandonment of the hat. Julius hat is no longer with him, as he left it in the left corner of the picture. This hat is known to identify the authority of the pope, as it symbolized the divine permission of the Pope to control the church.
Leonardo was the first to define the character’s eye as his/her anchor. Using the directions of the stares became the engine for making the picture vivid. He also gave instructions to shed light on the parts which should be most emphasized.
In addition to the general instructions, Leonardo has also formed some concrete techniques. Pointing up fingers to raise attention to a character, pointing them towards the viewer to express shame (“don’t stare at me, you should not see it!”), using of snakes to play with the viewer’s emotions and using eroticism to draw attention. You may judge the implementation of it Rafael has operated here:
Parnassus (detail), 1510-11; Fresco; Stanza dëlla Segnatura, Vatican Museums, Vatican City
Another great development of Leonardo is with feet. Leonardo focused the attention by using the lower parts of the painting. Till then, these parts were considered to be less important; so much as the painter sometimes did not precipitate them. Leonardo claimed the lack of interest in the character’s feet to be a mistake, as by their position can be a great expressing tool.
When implementing the following lesson, Rafael did not only painted the legs but granted them with sexual signification.
Leda and the Swan; c.1507-8; Pen and ink over chalk; 310 X 192 mm
Another example – a man stepping on a woman’s foot. You may recognize an emotional bound between the two:
The Deposition; c.1507; Oil on wood; 184 cm X 176 cm; Location: Gallery Borghese, Rome
Chapter 10: Rafael’s portraits
Rafael led a change in the concept of portraits. Rafael started painting people in a form that resembled themselves accurately, in contrast to the “fixed” pictures that were popular at that time. People who were ugly, their defects appeared in the pictures.
Portrait of Tommaso Inghirami; Oil on wood; c.1509; 91 cm X 61 cm
Tommaso Inghirami was a good friend of Rafael. Rafael painted him accurately with some “additions”. These additions were used to emphasize some traits of him. Inghirami was strabismus, and Rafael chose to paint him specifically on the side which exaggerated his defect.
Rafael also painted a little mouse on the ink cassette, using it as a motive. The mouse is the hidden talent of Inghirami who lays in the ink cassette and helps him to write. Rafael is kind of telling us – “The brilliance of Inghirami in his writings – is a result of the mouse in the ink. There is something extra of his brain”.
Inghirami was an academic, and he is known to have his words got him into troubles. I believe the best way to explain it is by saying that “everybody were afraid of his mouth”, so this mouse may be a character that says “the brilliance is not in my head, but in the ink”. I suppose this ink excuse is a humorous way to handle criticism inghirami faced as a response to his writings.
Julius the second:
The walls in Julius’ room are forming a collection of portraits, kind of an encyclopedia that will give a brief of history. You may notice Diogenes owning Julius’ face, Michelangelo, Plato and many others. Rafael and Michelangelo were not good friends. Michelangelo was a soloist man, while Rafael was friendly and loved by his surroundings.
After Rafael ended producing “Scuola di Athene”, he was dissatisfied having Michelangelo missing in it. As so, Rafael broke a part in the middle of the fresco and inserted Michelangelo. It is hard to change a fresco as for the nature of it. Rafael had been bothered by his conscience for not painting Michelangelo, so by inserting Michelangelo he granted him with the honor he deserved.
Just after Rafael has died, Michelangelo claimed that Rafael had learnt all he had known from him, so you may understand the nature of their relationship. Michelangelo was a jealous arrogant person.
In “Scuola di Athena”, there are some very famous literature figures. Dante Alighieri appeared with other two famous poets, Francesco Petrarca and Baldassare Castiglione. The Former was writing in Italian, despite his impressive education. He wrote poetry which I believe to be best for its elegance, while the latter was famous for a book he had written. Castiglione’s book determined what the ideal servant of a king should be like.
Dante was the poet that composed the most beautiful songs for his time, but people mostly didn’t know how to read his songs as they were in Italian. As such, many people had to translate his songs for their living. His literature was forbidden – he had to wander from town to town, as his goal was to give a “verdict of history” – an encyclopedia of people throughout history with criticism for each and every one of them.
In the same room, you may find Giovanni Boccaccio, the great writer. He is shown in very meager cloth, making it very surprising to find out he is the writer of very enjoyable and later famous stories, about very practical subjects that portray the medieval time.
Rafael painted other important writers such as Sophocles and Aristophanes, two great philosophers – Aristo and Plato, and even some scientists like Pythagoras, Archimedes and Euclid. All these people, which were not from his time, had been permanently set in our consciousness as the figures of the picture. Every dictionary you may open – will immediately portray you the faces of these figures as painted by Rafael, despite this description of them was only in Rafael’s mind.
Rafael built some kind of mythology by taking people from his time and imposing an ancient Greek time characters to identify with them. For instance, the portrait of Diogenes lying in Scuola Athens is indisputably having Julius the second’s face. I personally admire Rafael for keeping secrets in his paintings that haven’t been found even today, 500 years after his death.
Rafaels Self Portraits:
Rafael is painting himself, each time differently. You may notice from his portraits that he is not famous for his look. Apart from beauty judging, examining the picture can help us assume how Rafael would like us to comprehend him.
In the “Yohanan the Baptist Portrait”, for instance, we can see Rafael emphasizing his womanly side. Apart from the long hair and the smooth skin, you may notice his woman-like figure and gentle gestures. In the portrait “Self Portrait With A Friend”, you may notice Rafael standing behind his friend as one of his hand is laid on his friend’s shoulder and his second hand is probably under his friend’s shirt, again we see the homosexual motive in his pictures.
At the beginning of his work as a painter, Rafael followed the norm of the “fixed” portrait. The man who was painted was esthetic, pretty and clean. But this kind of work norm does not set the base for an opinion to be expressed. Likewise, the pictures will not be remembered in the collective memory.
Rafael figured that in order to influence the word of art, he had to express his opinions in the picture. He than started catching traits which characterized the man in front of him and managed to pass them throw the pictures. This change led to a paradoxical result – Julius the second, the man who paid for a huge amount of pictures, is not positively appeared. He is uncared, his beard looks neglected, he expresses some embarrassing feelings of desperation and confusion, anger and exaggerated happiness. I believe Scuola Athena to be the picture mostly characterizes this phenomenon – Julius is portrayed as old, barefoot and sitting in his excrements. The art theoreticians claim, that this was not Julius but Diogenes, a Greek philosopher known for his critical, skeptical and cynical attitude; but I beg to differ.
Chapter 11: Rafael’s opinion towards sanctity
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 – men and women sit together and the priest prays on his knees.
In one of his paintings, Rafael describes Jesus’ mother’s 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.
The Marriage of Maria
Location Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan
Dimensions 174 cm × 121 cm (69 in × 48 )
Type Oil on roundheaded panel
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. Focusing at 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 makes the temple seems to be lacking any atmosphere of sanctity. Jesus’ mother 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. Is it a romantic banal picture? Well, here is a twist: When flopping the picture, you may find the bouquet becoming a cursing monster:
Gallery: Pinacoteca Vaticana, Rome, Ital
Dimensions: 27 x 50 cm
Genre: religious painting
Style: High Renaissance
Start Date: 1502
In the third fabulous picture of the predella, “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 Jewish woman) is there holding Jesus. It seems that Jesus wants to return to the hands of Maria, as Rafael refuses to distinguish whether Jesus finds this circumcision welcome. This picture portrays Jesus’ protest against the priesthood, as the circumciser tries to operate him.
Location Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan 2
Dimensions 174 cm × 121 cm (69 in × 48 2
Type Oil on roundheaded panel 2
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, but Haim believes it to be the most significant one. 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 transforming 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.
Type oil on wood
Transfiguration of Jesus
Dimensions: 405 cm × 278 cm (159 in × 109 in)
Location: Vatican Museums
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 symbolizes 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 to think about our beliefs and not take them for granted.
Chapter 12: Rafael’s Sexual Orientation
During the Renaissance, there were three painters who can be considered the greatest – both by their influence and by their talent- Michelangelo, Leonardo and Rafael. Rafael is the most talented of all. Theoretically, the painter’s sexual orientation had had a great influence. The orientation has some sort of priming effect, causing him to change the way he chooses to describe reality. Many times, when Rafael had to portray the reality, he tended to insert some homosexual expressions which lacked any significant essence.
These expressions are not well emphasized. The viewer usually needs to keep a close eye on the picture in order to notice them.
The following picture, “Isaiah”, may shed some light on my claim:
The Prophet Isaiah; c.1512; fresco; 250 cm X 155 cm; Location: Basilica di Sant’Agostino, Rome
In the picture, you might have noticed the hand:
The picture may also be an example of the hidden narrative that lays underneath the exposed level. Isaiah is at the same time the saint prophet from the Bible, while trying to cover up the children’s genital with his hand. This is not homosexuality – but a pedophilia perversion. If you take a brief look on the boys – you may find that they are morose.
The picture itself was hidden from public. Immediately after it has been finished, the picture was not well received. The priest claimed that he had stored it in his office, but he may have instead covered it with fabric. You may be interested to know that this fresca was kept in San Lorenzo church.
In the year 1509, Rafael was working intensively in Rome. Working for the religious circle, he painted classic oriented pictures, as expected from a religious artist.
In the same time, Rafael started working at the tycoon Agostino Chiggi, from the bank business. He was the biggest banker at that time. As normally happens in history, Agostino had close relations with the pope. He had invested much of his money in boosting Julius projects, making the traditional connection of the crony capitalistic world.
Rafael was at his thirties, a handsome man, loved by his surroundings. He was known for his exaggerated drinking of wine. So exaggerated, that his used to faint often. Despite his wild drinking, Rafael was a very successful painter.
With the money he has earned, Rafael has based a hedonistic lifestyle. He was not married. He used to spend a lot of money on luxuries and had occasional affairs with men, women and even youth.
Another picture, “Self Portrait”, also contains that ambiguity:
Self -Portrait with a Friend; c.1518-1520; Oil on canvas; 99cm X 83cm; Louvre, Paris
Here, again, a game of hidden hands:
The Triumph of Galatea
The Triumph of Galatea was painted for Agostino Chigi, and was painted on a wall. In the picture, there are nymphs who are attacked by centaurs. Galatea manages to escape the scene, riding on a chariot powered by dolphins and a cupid. As for me, I personally think that this cupid is actually ballast as he pulls back the cart.
The cupids in the sky are aiming arrows, which control their targets conscious when hit. The cupids where under orders of Venus, and the character behind the cloud implies that they were just following her orders. Another evidence of their organized structure is the distribution of roles – while three cupids are “archers”, one is a dolphin “accelerator”.
I believe that Rafael tried to say that crimes are not of human belongings, but the God’s preprogrammed plan. The story may be naïve and less theoretical, but it is a beautiful picture after all.
The Triumph of Galatea; c.1514; Fresco; Location: Villa Farnesina, Rome
The Stufetta is Cardinal Bibbiena’s bathroom, which served as a place to have his associates. Bibbiena was a close associate to Julius, serving as one of his secretaries.
As someone who had the chance to go there, I must say that the room is looking very much authentic (I believe it is mainly thanks to the fact it is open for public to visit only since 40-50 years ago). It is a yellow-red room, pretty much lacking lightness (as the light comes throw the walls), there are faucets with hot and cold water and paintings hung all over the place.
As the place contained Roman gods, women in erotic positions and mythological creatures – Julius didn’t want to pay for its carrying out. Due to that, he asked one of his friends to fund and raise the project. The room is located close to Julius’ house. In contrast to the modesty which can be referred to his house, the room in which he used to meet with people was pretty much of a luxury.
Rafael was appointed to plan the room. Rafael personally painted the walls, and planned the architecture. The pictures portray pagan pictures, not to mention their sexual nature. The room is quite shocking, as it is hard to imagine the pope enjoying and regularly meeting people using a place decorated by such pictures.
What did the pope believe in? Were we faced with a hypocrite person who was addicted to all hedonistic shallowest pleasures?
Chapter 13: Rafael – The Head of Artistic Projects
One of Rafael’s virtues is the ability to maintain and manage a large group of painters in order to fulfill his artistic visions. He used to paint on walls, and this is the main reason his pictures survived to this day. Normally, the pictures had to be cared and maintained, but eventually they survived and we can enjoy them today 🙂
Scuola di Atene, Parnassus, Disputa and Ostianian Conquest are all 10 meters squared in size. Just for your understanding, 10 meters squared is like a quarter of your class floor. For Scuola di Athene – the whole group spent more than a year, for the Disputa even more.
Why Scuola di Athena? The pope did not see it with good eye to praise people who were not monotheist. The name “Scuola”(school) is a compromise for the pope, who did not what to be seen as if he was giving permission to Pagan Philosophers. Till Rafael, it was sort of forbidden to relate to Pagan literature.
Till about the year 1,500, the people were not allowed to be exposed to philosophies of non Christians. Why is it interesting? Because Julius the Second was the first pope that not only allowed it, but has requested Rafael to paint these figures in large size at his private home. We may “accuse” Julius for being pluralist somehow, as his request for such pictures delivers the message that such pictures are legitimate.
Rafael was the one who profited the most from this new shift. As for painters before him, they could say they dared to paint naked women or erotic pictures, but Rafael has changed the world of art. Rafael was the first to paint pictures that directly contradict Christianity.
Parnassus; c.1510-11; Fresco; Stanza dëlla Segnatura, Vatican Museums, Vatican City
Chapter 14: Rafael is Changing the World of Art
Rafael, apart from being a painter and an artist, was also an innovator. Rafael had inherited his father’s workshop after the latter died, being only ten years old. When looking at his first paintings, you may notice his will to change the way conformist artist had been painting till that time. This Tendency is extremely noticeable in paintings which where ordered by the Catholic church.
In all of his pictures, he starts presenting men without clothe with preoccupation to show their confused sexuality. He examines the iconography to choose subjects; as from any subject he may deal with – there will be undressing of figures. The word “perversity” may not be that far from describing his thinking. In all these pictures, the figures’ penises stands as central in the picture(it may be true its Jesus’ or Cherub’s[kind of angle/theological figure], but the element that captures the viewer’s attention is the penis).
It is not by incident that in the following picture, Nicola Di Tolentino, the cherub has male and female sex symbols.
Nicola de San Nicola da Tolentino (detail); c. 1500-1501; Oil on wood
In the following picture, “Coronation” by Nicola Di Tolentino, there is a God’s decide Nicola would become saint. What maid him being deserved such a coronation?
The cherub is stepping on the men, not in a convenient way (to say the least).
A Few Words to the End –
How comes Rafael has become the Greatest Artist of His Time
Being raised in an average town like Urbino – it is quiet surprising that Rafael became what he was.
At the time of Rafael, people started questioning Christianity’s concepts. The priests encompassing the church were comprehended as unreliable and cooperated with army people. Many seniors of the church reached positions in the public administration and their status was questioned.
In the same time, Bourgeois status started to rise. Many people from occupied Constantinople immigrated to Italy and developed it, bringing with them knowledge and manpower. Italy was now exposed to doubts about concepts that were not questioned before.
The vast development of cities caused a shortage of building materials. People started stealing stones from cemeteries and palaces, resulting with immense rising of cities.
In contrast to former popes who rejected the modern changes with inquisitory aggressiveness, Julius the second and Leo the tenth accepted the pluralistic philosophy. They did not accept a different religious, the Catholic kept their status as the Hegemonic group; but the Vatican was vanquished. It was rebuilt, but from nothing.
When Julius presented himself to Rafael – he confessed: “I’m not a scientist, not a literature man. I have been being an army man for my whole life. Take your crew and describe me how you think represents me the best. ”
Julius presented an ultimatum to the former workers of the Vatican’s artistic class – “you may work under Rafael or find a new job”. Many refused and a reform took place. Rafael got to manage a vast group of people.
In the Word’s of the Book’s Creator – About the Ambiguity of Paintings
“About the ambiguity of pictures” – When I chose that phrase to be the title of the ending, I came by the dissatisfaction of the creator. He insisted that it does not fit the subject properly, ‘you should find another’. It doesn’t fit the subject as it oversimplifies the nature of the messages.
According to Haim, the artists didn’t always intent to make their criticism revealed. Sometimes, we may describe the ambiguity as a “coded” one.
As I was looking over the pictures, using Photoshop, I could get into the pictures and find signs, that…, there is some coded messages. The artist left messages that the observer couldn’t actually understand or notice. For example, many times, if you observe the picture flipped vertical, you can notice a totally different perspective. It is clear, that as these pictures were presented on walls, that the original observers could not noticed these perspectives. But in contrast to them, today we are equipped with modern tools that are very useful in researching this hidden art.
Haim said that artists at that time, such as Rafael have hidden codes that can be revealed only with Adobe. As with Adobe Photoshop, one can actually focus on the pictures, highlight the hidden parts of the picture. Besides, Haim has used the advantage he has with Adobe, which allows him to flip the picture and find secrets the artist tried to hide from his generation.