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Update: November 5, 2020 (original release date: September 27, 2019)

National Gallery of Art Celebrates 500th Anniversary of Raphael's Death

Raphael, "Eight Apostles", c. 1514 red chalk over stylus underdrawing and traces of leadpoint on laid paper, cut in two pieces and rejoined; laid down. National Gallery of Art, Washington, Woodner Collection

Eight Apostles, c. 1514
red chalk over stylus underdrawing and traces of leadpoint on laid paper, cut in two pieces and rejoined; laid down
sheet: 8.1 x 23.2 cm (3 3/16 x 9 1/8 in.)
support: 9.4 x 24.8 cm (3 11/16 x 9 3/4 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Woodner Collection

Washington, DC—Raphael (1483–1520) is recognized by many as the foremost figure of the classical tradition in Western painting. In celebration of the 500th anniversary of his death, the National Gallery of Art will present 26 prints and drawings from its own collection of works by Raphael’s contemporaries that includes four drawings by the Renaissance master himself. Raphael and His Circle will convey the complexity, range, and immediate influence of his style as it became the standard for aesthetic excellence in Western art. The exhibition will be on view from February 16 through November 15, 2020.

Raphael 500

Several major exhibitions have been organized to mark the 500th anniversary of Raphael’s death. The Gallery offers its own homage through this exhibition and the display of its paintings by Raphael—the largest and most important group outside of Europe. The Galleria Nazionale delle Marche inaugurates the year’s tribute with an exhibition in his hometown of Urbino (Raphael and His Friends of Urbino, October 3, 2019–January 19, 2020). The celebration continues with exhibitions at the Scuderie del Quirinale, Rome (Raffaello, March 5–June 2, 2020), and the National Gallery, London (The Credit Suisse Exhibition: Raphael, October 3, 2020–January 24, 2021). The Gallery will loan The Alba Madonna (c. 1510) to the Scuderie del Quirinale, Rome as well as Bindo Altoviti (c. 1515) and A Marble Horse on the Quirinal Hill (c. 1513) to the National Gallery, London, in honor of this anniversary. At the Veneranda Biblioteca Ambrosiana, Milan, a newly conserved preparatory cartoon (c. 1508) for the Vatican fresco School of Athens (1509) is on view. The Victoria and Albert Museum, London, will be highlighting their set of seven full-scale cartoons by Raphael for tapestries.

Exhibition Organization

The exhibition is organized by the National Gallery of Art, Washington.

Exhibition Curator

The exhibition is curated by Jonathan Bober, Andrew W. Mellon Senior Curator of Prints and Drawings, National Gallery of Art.

About the Exhibition

Raphael and His Circle
features 26 prints and drawings by Raphael’s collaborators and followers, and by printmakers who were inspired by him. The exhibition includes four drawings by Raphael from the Gallery’s collection: the sheet from which the design of his painting Saint George and the Dragon (c. 1506, National Gallery of Art, Washington) was transferred; the cartoon for the so-called Belle Jardinière (La Vierge à l'Enfant avec le petit saint Jean-Baptiste, 1507 or 1508, Musée du Louvre, Paris); a detailed representation of the prophets Hosea and Jonah; and a well-known study for part of the frescoes in the church of Santa Maria della Pace in Rome. Each of these drawings is an advanced preparatory study for an important extant work. Together they represent Raphael’s immediate influence and artistic development.

Nine drawings by his closest collaborators and followers suggest the collective nature of Raphael’s later activity and the origins of mannerism. Four pen-and-ink drawings by Giulio Romano (1499–1546) include a dramatic rendering of Saint Michael (c. 1530). Two chalk drawings by Polidoro da Caravaggio (c. 1499–probably 1543) feature a fleeing barbarian from the early 1520s and A Deathbed Scene (c. 1521/1522) with a drawing of a seated woman on the reverse in red chalk. Also on view are two pen-and-ink drawings by Perino del Vaga (1501–1547), including the remarkable Alexander Consecrating the Altars for the Twelve Olympian Gods (1545/1547) and a sheet of figure studies.

Raphael was the first artist to exploit the possibilities of printmaking to disseminate his inventions, enhance his reputation, and generate income. This practice caused his art to become a universal European language. Raphael’s prints demonstrated to an international audience his magisterial command of complex, multifigure compositions and his modern style rooted in the study of ancient art. This exhibition includes 10 engravings by one of the earliest interpreters of his designs, Marcantonio Raimondi (c. 1480–c. 1534), whose engravings of Parnassus and The Holy Family, as well as The Massacre of the Innocents (c. 1511) show Raphael’s influence. Around 1510 Raphael began collaborating with Marcantonio on several engravings that successfully circulated Raphael’s works beyond the Roman churches and palaces in which they were housed. Raimondi’s followers, Agostino dei Musi (c. 1490–1536) and Marco Dente (c. 1493–1527), also directly reference works by Raphael in their engravings, including Musi’s The Battle with the Cutlass. Also on view is Ugo da Carpi’s (c. 1480–1532) David Slaying Goliath, based on a design by Raphael in the Vatican, which is the only chiaroscuro woodcut in the exhibition.

Raphael (1483–1520)

Raffaelo di Giovanni Santi, known as Raphael, was a younger contemporary of Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo, all of whom epitomize the High Renaissance in Italy. It is thought that Raphael’s early training was with his father, who was a painter at the court of Urbino. He joined the workshop of Pietro Perugino sometime after the death of his father, when Raphael was 11 years old.

Late in 1504, Raphael moved to Florence, drawn by Leonardo’s softly shadowed forms, natural figure groupings, and simplified settings. In 1508 the pope summoned Raphael to Rome, where he was influenced by the idealized classical art of the city's ancient past. He also responded to the more energetic and physical style of Michelangelo, whose works he had already begun to study in Florence. Raphael remained in Rome for the last 12 years of his life, preparing monumental frescoes for the papal chambers, designing tapestries for the Sistine Chapel, and painting mythological scenes. He was also the city’s leading portraitist, creating penetrating images that engage viewer and sitter with a new intensity for the time. When he died at age 37, the pope ordered that Raphael, who had been keeper of antiquities, be buried in the Pantheon.

Related Activites

Gallery Talk
Introductory Slide Overview: Raphael and His Circle
February 25, 11:00 a.m.
March 10, 17, 24, 31, 11:00 a.m. (March 17, 24, 31 programs have been canceled)
April 7, 14, 21, 28, 11:00 a.m. (canceled)
May 5, 12, 19, 26, 11:00 a.m. (canceled)
June 9, 11:00 a.m. (canceled)
(60 minutes)
Staff lecturers
West Building Lecture Hall
The illustrated one-hour talk examines the High Renaissance artist’s career emphasizing works from the National Gallery of Art’s renowned collection of paintings, drawings, and prints.

Update: January 13, 2020
This update includes an additional information on Raphael 500.

Update: February 7, 2020
This update includes added related activites.

Update: March 13, 2020
This update includes program cancellations.

Update: March 17, 2020
This update includes program cancellations.

Update: March 19, 2020
This update includes program cancellations.

Update: April 2, 2020
This update includes program cancellations.

Update: November 5, 2020
This update includes new closing date.

Press Contact:
Laurie Tylec, (202) 842-6355 or [email protected]

General Information

For additional press information please call or send inquiries to:
Department of Communications
National Gallery of Art
2000 South Club Drive
Landover, MD 20785
phone: (202) 842-6353
e-mail: [email protected]
Anabeth Guthrie
Chief of Communications
(202) 842-6804
[email protected]

The Gallery also offers a broad range of newsletters for various interests. Follow this link to view the complete list.

Exhibition Press Release

Exhibition Checklist (PDF 302 KB)

Order Exhibition Press Images

Press Event: Raphael and His Circle
Audio, Released: March 2, 2020 (47:35 minutes)

Laurie Tylec
(202) 842-6355
[email protected]