Raphael festivities: the National Gallery obtains exceptional loans for the 500th anniversary of the artist’s death


Saint Catherine of Alexandria by Raphael (circa 1507)
© The National Gallery, London

The National Gallery will organize one of the biggest exhibitions on Raphael next year, to mark the 500th anniversary of his death. He will deal with the entire span of his career, not just paintings and drawing. The exhibition will also cover his involvement in archeology, architecture and poetry, as well as printmaking, sculpture, tapestry and the applied arts.

But of course the paintings will be the main attraction. In addition to the ten works in the gallery, key loans are expected from the Louvre in Paris, the Vatican Museums, the Galleria degli Uffizi in Florence, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC and the Museo Nacional del Prado in Madrid. Among the promised paintings is the Esterházy Madonna (1508) from the Museum of Fine Arts in Budapest.

The Virgin of the Roses by Raphael (c.1506-07)
© The National Gallery, London

Another key loan will be the Our Lady of Terranuova (1504-05) from the Staatliche Museum in Berlin. This will be sent as part of an exchange, since the National Gallery in London will lend his Raphael Madonna of roses (1506-07) in Berlin (December 13-April 26, 2020). A sketch of the painting from the Kupferstichkabinett in Berlin could also arrive in London, although this remains to be confirmed. In total, the National Gallery hopes to assemble around thirty paintings by Raphael, with around twenty external loans.

Among the important drawings will be the Study for the Head of an Apostle of the Transfiguration (1518-20), arrived in England in the 16th century and passed into the Chatsworth collection. It was sold in 2012 at Sotheby’s for £ 29.7m, a record price for a design. It is on loan from a private New York collector; the owner is believed to be New York financier Leon Black.

Raphael’s Study for the Head of an Apostle of the Transfiguration (1518-20) is in a private collection in New York
© Private collection

The main curator of the exhibition is Matthias Wivel, the National Gallery’s specialist in 16th century Italian paintings. Nicholas Penny, former gallery director and expert on the Italian Renaissance (and identifier of the Madonna of roses), helped organize an exhibition about Raphael’s early days in 2004, although he was not involved in the upcoming exhibition.

Raphael’s other major exhibition next year will be at the Scuderie del Quirinale in Rome, tentatively from March 3 to June 14, 2020. The London and Rome exhibitions are being held independently, but the dates have been agreed on a by mutual agreement so that the lenders can provide works at both places. , if they wish. Rome is now in the process of obtaining major loans from France, following the September 24 agreement between the French and Italian governments on cooperation regarding the Leonardo exhibition at the Louvre (October 24-February 24, 2020).

Gabriele Finaldi, director of the National Gallery, said of next year’s London exhibition: “Half a millennium after Raphael’s disappearance is a good time to reassess his vast achievement.” The artist died on April 6, 1520 in Rome, at the age of 37.

The Credit Suisse exhibition: Raphael, National Gallery, London, October 3, 2020 – January 24, 2021


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