Etch a Sketch

Raphael undoubtedly played a role in Renaissance art. One cannot think of that era without thinking of the beautiful Madonnas and little, fat cherubs done by Raphael.

Raphael, Sistine Madonna, 1512. Oil on canvas, 265 x 196 cm.  Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Dresden.
Raphael, Sistine Madonna, 1512.
Oil on canvas, 265 x 196 cm.
Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Dresden.

His talent, however, goes beyond that of painter, as he played a significant role in the development of reproductive print.  Although Raphael never produced any prints himself, he created many drawings for the sole purpose of being engraved by Marcantonio Raimondi. Together, Raphael and Raimondi created some of the most famous Italian prints of the century and gave rise to print publishing in Rome.

Just as the Gutenberg Press made printed word available to the general audience, through easily and affordable reproduction, the prints done by Raphael and Raimondi facilitated the circulation of art, beyond the walls of churches.

Marcantonio Raimondi, designed by Raphael, The Judgment of Paris, c. 1510-1520. Engraving, 29.2 x 43.6 cm. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
Marcantonio Raimondi, designed by Raphael, The Judgment of Paris, c. 1510-1520.
Engraving, 29.2 x 43.6 cm.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Strangely enough, Raphael was only one of two great names from the Renaissance era to dabble in print production, the other being Titian, but to a less successful degree.

Engraving vitalized art outside of the church, which probably explains its unpopularity amongst artists at the time. During that period in time, the great patrons of art included the Church, the Court, or the Medici family. But as the Court and the Church (and the Medicis) overlapped, there was not much room for art production unless it served a religious purpose. And while the themes of the engravings done by Raphael and Raimondi were religious, they hardly matched up with the large, vivid, and imposing paintings found in Cathedrals.

Even though Raphael’s contemporaries overlooked the art of engraving, his design for The Judgment of Paris has played an influential role in the art of later artists, such as Manet.

The Luncheon on the Grass, 1862-1863. Oil on canvas, 208 x 265.5 cm. Musée d’Orsay, Paris.
The Luncheon on the Grass, 1862-1863.
Oil on canvas, 208 x 265.5 cm.
Musée d’Orsay, Paris.

To enjoy more of Raphael’s work, visit the new exhibition at the Szépművészeti Múzeum (Museum of Fine Arts) in Budapest, entitled The Triumph of Perfection – Raphael , running until 30 March 2014. Or give the gift of art this holiday season, purchase Parkstone International’s Raphael  for a friend, family member, or a colleague.

-D.R.

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