Works by Raphael Sanzio (1483-1520) are being shown at the Musée du Luxembourg in Paris until January 27th 2002.
Raphael was so famous during his lifetime that when he died suddenly the day of his birthday, the Roman people and the pope mourned him like a king. The cause of his death however remained unknown though it was often suggested that the artist, who was an indefatigable rake and womaniser, died of a venereal disease.
The art historian Vasari went on even to write that once his eyes were shut painting became blind. Probably no artist enjoyed as much fame than Raphael in the history of art until at least the second half of the 19th Century when historians came to reassess his true role in retrogressing him behind Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and Rembrandt.
Raphael was from then on considered a wee bit academic and not enough romantic but today such assertion has been much tempered simply because the fault rested on his followers who copied him much alas without resuscitating his intuitive talent.
Goethe once said of Raphael that he had managed to fulfil what the others had dreamed of doing and as this exhibition tends to prove he really was a genius in expressing life pathetically on a canvas.
Raphael aimed at true perfection and certainly was a wizard in the eyes of most art lovers though his main concern was clearly to suggest or reveal and not to denounce nor distort what he saw. Cardinal Bembo's epitaph on Raphael's tomb was clearly explicit in this respect as it said: “Here lies Raphael, who during his life made Nature fear that he would master it, and when he died, made it die with him”….