Imagine that you are cleaning up your house for the holiday season and are dusting behind your wardrobe and you discover a priceless painting that is 500 years old. What an important discovery that would be!
That is exactly what happened at the Vatican Museums only a few days ago, where two paintings by Raphael were accidentally discovered. The paintings are of two female figures, one depicting Justice and the other depicting Friendship. These two paintings are made using oil paints. This seems to be an experiment that the great maestro was doing. These paintings were discovered while a room at the Vatican Museums was being cleaned and restored. The Vatican Museums are art museums in Vatican City.
What is the Vatican City? It is the smallest country or city state in the world (approximately 110 acres) and is located within the city of Rome, Italy. The Vatican City is the capitol or centre of the Catholic Church. It is home to several very important religious and cultural sites such as the St. Peter’s Basilica, the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museums.
Who was Raphael? The great Renaissance master artist, Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino (1483 – 1520), is popularly known as Raphael.
What was the Renaissance? You might know that “renaissance” means “rebirth” in French. The time between the 14th and 17th centuries is referred to as the Renaissance Period in Europe because there was a big cultural movement and a new way of thinking that we see reflected in the art, architecture, politics, science and literature of that time. Perhaps you have seen the world famous works of other Renaissance artists, like Michelangelo Buonarroti (who painted the Creation of Adam on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel) and Leonardo da Vinci (who painted the Last Supper).
Back to Raphael! Raphael’s work is admired for its clarity of form and ease of composition. Raphael had been asked by Pope Julius II to paint his private apartments in 1508. This is around the time when oil paints were first used. Raphael completed three rooms which are now known as the Raphael rooms. He painted frescoes on the walls and ceilings using water colours on plaster. Raphael had planned the fourth and largest room, called the Hall of Constantine to be painted with paintings in oil. Alas, he died soon after he started the fourth room and the paintings were completed by his team of students using the fresco technique. It is only during the restoration of these rooms that these two paintings were discovered as they look different to those in the rest of the room.
Experts were called in to look for clues as to who could have painted these. The experts used many techniques to find clues including making ultra-violet and infrared photos of the paintings. They matched the brushwork and shading of colour with Raphael’s signature style.
Some of the famous works of Raphael include the Resurrection of Christ (housed at the São Paulo Museum of Art, Brazil) and Madonna with the Blue Diadem (at the Louvre, France) which are both oil paintings on wood.
Travel tip! Keep an eye out the next time you are cleaning up, travelling or going exploring someplace, you never know what treasures you might accidentally stumble upon.
Contributed by: Purnima Thacker, a keen art admirer