The Raphael Loggias in the Hermitage Museum are copies of the famous gallery created during the 16th century in the Vatican Palace by Raphael Sanzio da Urbino (1483-1520). The Hermitage Gallery was created at the behest of Catherine II. Built in the mid-19th century, it was included in the New Hermitage design as a museum building. Copies of the Vatican frescos were produced in tempera on canvas by a group of artists under Christoper Unterberger. The vaults of this gallery are decorated with paintings based upon Biblical stories, and the walls are covered with human and animal forms interwoven with flowers and foliage. This decorative ornamentation was found in the ruins of Nero’s Golden House, referred to as grotesques. The Raphael Loggias in the Hermitage reveal the links of 18th century Classicism with Renaissance and Classical art. But that is also where the comparisons end.
Pope Julius II Della Rovere commissioned Raphael, age 25, to paint the frescoes in his four room apartment on the top floor of the Vatican palace. The four Stanze di Raffaello (Raphael’s rooms) form a suite of reception rooms, the public part of the papal apartments. It is possible Julius’ intent was to outshine the apartments of his predecessor (and rival) Pope Alexander VI and the Borgia Secret Apartments, as the Stanze are directly above Alexander’s apartments, overlooking the south side of the Belvedere Courtyard.
The death of Julius in 1513 found only two rooms complete but Pope Leo X continued the program. Following Raphael’s death in 1520, his assistants Gianfrancesco Penni, Giulio Romano and Raffaellino del Colle finished the project.
The most famous fresco done by Raphael is called The School of Athens. Depicting a school of famous ancient Greek philosophers, some of which were done in the image of well-known artists of the Italian Renaissance; Plato painted to look like Leonardo da Vinci, Euclid is Donato Bramante, the first architect of the new St. Peter’s Basilica; Raphael included a portrait of himself in a group on the right. During the development of this fresco, the painter managed a surreptitious look at the work going on the Sistine Chapel, subsequently adding an additional individual to the School of Athens, the lone figure of Heraclitus, played by Michelangelo.
Viewing the Raphael Loggias at the Hermitage pushed me to further research the Vatican versions, and what a treasure trove of images I found. The Hermitage design and execution differs greatly from the Vatican originals, but the inspiration of Raphael is evident. Taking the virtual tour at the Hermitage will require some patience, click on the spinning room after it loads, and you will be able to view the area adequately. The Vatican Museum offers a virtual tour of the Raphael rooms, small screen size also, but with great magnification of detail. Wiki has a page devoted all the frescos by Raphael in the Vatican apartments, 28 images total.
Thank you for joining me for Museum Monday. If you have any comments on Raphael, please use the Observations space below. If you wish to read more on Raphael, I recommend Three Pipe Problem and his post Recounting Raphael’s Digits.
I am planning a new addition to my blog devoted to art, history and the iPad. If you have any great apps, please share them with me, I am still new and fumbling about.