Dans l’Atelier de Raphaël

L’exposition du Louvre se concentre sur les années de Raphaël à Rome, ses années de maturité donc car Raphaël décéda à 37 ans. J’ai toujours pensé que la force de Raphaël, après son apprentissage chez Le Pérugin, était de synthétiser à merveille les techniques de Leonard de Vinci et Michel-Ange – Léonard étant le plus grand génie des trois à mon avis. La technique de Leonardo se retrouve dans le ‘sfumato’ (effet fumé, vaporeux au lieu de contour nets) que Raphaël maîtrisait presque aussi bien que son aîné. Après ses fresques au Vatican, il obtint multiples commandes des papes et dut s’entourer d’un atelier conséquent afin de répondre aux commandes. C’est sur cette période que l’exposition se concentre.

Raphaël et son atelier furent prolifiques mais sur une courte période et l’exposition montre des Raphaël aux côtés d’œuvres de ses assistants. En fait la signature de Raphaël attestait de la supervision de Raphaël et la fabrication dans son atelier mais pas nécessairement de la main de Raphaël. Dans quelques peintures, les experts ont conclu qu’il avait peint la figure et laissé le paysage à ses assistants voire la totalité de la peinture dans d’autres. Ainsi, certaines œuvres ont été déclassées comme des œuvres de ses assistants (Giulio Romano, Udine, Penni pour les plus doués) alors que d’autres se sont vues “upgrader”, auparavant jugées peintes par les assistants à attestées par la main de Raphaël même.

Pourtant, du point de vue de non-expertes, nous distinguions une nette différence entre les œuvres de Raphaël et celles uniquement de la main de ses assistants, qui forçaient les contrastes contre une peinture plus “douce” de Raphaël. J’aurais préféré une confrontation avec le maître de Raphaël, Le Pérugin, qui ne figure pas dans l’exposition. Le Pérugin certes, était dans la vie de Raphael bien avant ses années romaines, mais aurait fourni des rapprochements et confrontations plus intéressantes. L’exposition inclut néanmoins de superbes œuvres de Raphaël comme La Velata, le Portrait de Bindo Altoviti, la Madone à la rose et l’Autoportrait avec Giulio Romano.

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2 responses to “Dans l’Atelier de Raphaël

  1. I was totally blown away by this exhibition.

    Since I have read your comment before seeing it, I have made sure I had time to go to salle 5 after seeing the exhibition, to see Perugino and try to answer your question, My impression is that Raphael’s “douce” representation of faces owes a lot to his teacher; this softness, so full of life and idealistic at the same time, is typical both Perugino and Raphael; can you think of any Michelangelo or LdV painting that would be so “soft”? I guess it would be atypical for them.

    Also, this exhibition has highlighted that Raphael was more in demand than M. or LdV. I started to ponder this and, all of a sudden, it was like I have seen all three of the,with my own eyes! Both M. or LdV were recognized as geniuses, both had more experience, but both were difficult (in modern language, had ‘communication problems’): Leonardo was extremely sophisticated, and Michelangelo was full of emotions and compromise-less. Also, both were known to be bad with their deadlines (always for a good reason, but this was not making the commissioners’ life easier…) Now imagine Raphael, good-mannered, organized, handsome (this never hurts!), who’s incorporated the best of both M. and LdV in his style. Is not the choice very easy to make?

    This brings up a question: what is properly Raphael’s, what were the new techniques/style features that he pioneered? Or is he a genius of synthesis, of choosing the best of existing and putting it together?

    Last but but probably the most striking was the connection with mannerism. Before I saw this exhibition, I only knew that this was the style that followed renaissance. I also knew that, by convention, the end of renaissance is determined by Raphael’s death (1520), Raphael’s works being considered the climax of renaissance, This exhibition revealed that it was actually Raphael best student, Giulio Romano, who launched the style favors everything that is anti-naturalistic, twisted, exaggerated, bizarre; everything that is opposite to renaissance values. Almost all exhibitions focus on one style/artist/school, giving us a static picture. Louvre gave us a possibility to see the dynamics of transition between 2 major styles, renaissance and mannerism, for me this was the most striking part of the exhibition, I only wish there were more exhibitions like this.

    • Thanks Yu for this wonderful comment. I am really glad my blog post prompted you to see the exhibition AND paintings by Perugino in the permanent collection.

      I believe we both agree that Raphael owes a lot to his teacher and I still think that an exhibition confronting Raphael to Perugino would have been marvellous. We also agree, from your question, that his genius was to synthesise the best of LdV and MA.

      Thanks for your point on mannerism. It adds an interesting aspect to the exhibition. Thanks for reading me and feel free to comment again!

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