Raphaël in Chantilly

Raffaello Sanzio, better known as Raphaël, is one of the most illustrious artists of the Italian Renaissance (16th century).

The Condé Museum invites you to discover its extraordinary collection of drawings and paintings by the master, by exploring his career, from his first religious sketches to his major masterpieces, culminating in the productions of his students.

Madonna of humility, crowned by two flying angels and surrounded by six other angels (1483-1520) by Raffaello SanzioChâteau de Chantilly

Who is Raphaël?

Son of the artist Giovanni Santi (around 1440/45–1494), Raphaël was born in 1483 in Urbino, a thriving center of arts and humanism in central Italy. 

Study for the Disputation of the Holy Sacrament: twenty clerics and ecclesiastics discussing (1483-1520) by Raffaello SanzioChâteau de Chantilly

Stimulated by this environment and trained by his father, the talented young man was quickly noticed, particularly through his drawings.

He soon became the collaborator of Perugino, a successful painter known for the rigor of his religious representations, in the Italian region of Umbria.

La Madone de la maison d'Orléans (Avant 1507) by RaphaëlChâteau de Chantilly

At the age of 21, Raphaël left for Florence, where he rubbed shoulders with Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. He was marked by their sense of dynamism and composition. His own works then came to life and gained expressiveness.  

Called upon by the Popes to decorate the Vatican Palace with frescoes, he quickly established himself as one of the greatest masters of the Renaissance. Celebrated during his lifetime, he died at the age of 37, after a short but meteoric career.

The Duc d'Aumale and Cuvillier-Fleury in the reading room (1880) by Gabriel FerrierChâteau de Chantilly

Chantilly, Raphaël's sanctuary

If the Condé de Chantilly museum houses the most significant collection of works by Raphaël in France after the Louvre, it is thanks to its founder, Henri d´Orléans, Duke of Aumale (1822–1897).

Indeed, Raphaël was the duke's favorite painter and the artist most often cited in his personal diaries. He spent lavishly to acquire the masterpieces in his collection, all of which went on sale in the 19th century.

Bust of man (1500-1503) by Pietro VannucciChâteau de Chantilly

Raphaël's mentor

The art of Perugino, Raphaël's mentor, can be distinguished by his clean, linear, and controlled designs.

This sheet comes from the copybook of one of Perugino's students, bringing together different models based on the master's work. 

This bust of a bearded old man is based on the one on an altar that Perugino was commissioned to create (The Marriage of the Virgin, Museum of Fine Arts of Caen), which we know to have been a source of inspiration for the young Raphaël.

Saint Sebastian (1445-1523) by Pietro VannucciChâteau de Chantilly

This drawing of Saint Sebastian from a fresco by Perugino in Panicale, shows the saint, endowed with imposing musculature, serenely pleading with the heavens.

The subject is in contrapposto, or in other words, has one of his legs slightly bent, giving the impression of dynamism and movement.

Perugino's frescoes and drawings greatly influenced Raphaël.

Deux Children Sitting, (1454-1513) by Bernardino PinturicchioChâteau de Chantilly

The influence of Pinturicchio

A popular artist in Rome, where he collaborated on the construction of the Sistine Chapel alongside Perugino, Pinturicchio developed a more whimsical style and a talent for storytelling.

Here, he depicts children who appear to be holding the reins of a chariot upon which one of them is sitting. Pinturicchio and his plump children also inspired Raphaël.

Two naked children mounted on boars and playing with spears in the presence of six other naked children. (1483-1520) by Raffaello SanzioChâteau de Chantilly

Raphaël's first drawings

In this drawing, created around 1502–1504, the young Raphaël already asserts a clear and controlled line, inherited from Perugino. However, he also gives his composition real dynamism.

This work also bears witness to the artistic exchanges that took place during the Renaissance: when representing wild boars upon which lively children are perched, Raphaël was inspired by an engraving by the German master, Albrecht Dürer.

With their bulging bellies, protruding chins, high foreheads, and curly hair, the children are similar to those of Pinturicchio or Perugino.

This drawing is a cartoon, or in other words, an initial surface used to prepare for another work, such as a fresco or a painting, using a transfer technique (by creating small pin pricks).

Young monk seen from the front, with his head slightly tilted, reading a book. (1483-1520) by Raffaello SanzioChâteau de Chantilly

This is also a cartoon for a transfer drawing; the final work is unknown.

Here, we have a representation of a man delicately holding a book in his hands, which almost seem disproportionate. 

We can tell by his tonsure (shaved head) that he is a monk, focused on his reading. The serenity and monumentality that it conveys demonstrate all the power of suggestion that young Raphaël was capable of.

Les Trois Grâces (1503/1508) by RaphaëlChâteau de Chantilly

Les Trois Grâces

Les Trois Grâces, one of the most famous paintings of Chantilly, is also one of the smallest by Raphaël. It is most importantly one of the first secular works that he painted.

The exact subject of this work is debated but is traditionally read as a representation of the three Graces: Aglaé (the Brilliant), Thalis (the Abundant), and Euphrosyne (the Joyful), particularly here embodying love, beauty, and modesty—all feminine qualities. 

This group is inspired by an ancient sculpture.

Analysis revealed a drawing underneath the paint, showing a significant change in composition: originally, only one of the Graces—the one on the left—held a golden apple. It was undoubtedly for the sake of balance—to achieve the perfect final harmony—that Raphaël opted for the three golden apples.

It was undoubtedly for the sake of balance—to achieve the perfect final harmony—that Raphaël opted for the three golden apples. 

Four naked men, one half kneeling, two others standing in the foreground and the fourth in the background carrying a shield (1483-1521) by Based on Raffaello SanzioChâteau de Chantilly

It was when he arrived in Florence that Raphaël explored the representation of nudes based on a live model. 

This drawing showing four naked men is testimony to this, and illustrates Raphaël’s special interest in anatomy, whether from a live model or ancient sculpture.

3/4 frontal view of a man's head, tilted to the right (1483-1520) by Raffaello SanzioChâteau de Chantilly

The pathetic expression of this man's face is striking, with its grimacing mouth, distorted nose, and large, drooping eyes. 

His features are sublimated by the light that Raphaël created using white hatching and blending with black chalk.

This face corresponds to that of one of the bearers of Christ in The Pala Baglioni, a work by Raphaël inspired by Laocoön and his Sons, a famous ancient statue discovered in Rome in 1506, and immediately purchased by Pope Julius II. 

It is the sculptural neck of the character in particular that reveals his affiliation with the group of sculptors. 

The Virgin and Child seated in a landscape, with St. John (1469-1523) by Raffaello SanzioChâteau de Chantilly

The Florentine Madonnas 

This drawing was a preparatory sketch for the famous painting The Beautiful Gardener, which is kept at the Louvre, produced by Raphaël around 1507–1508.

We find the same harmonious composition, organized in a pyramid. 

Raphaël demonstrates his perfect mastery of shadows and volumes, while instilling great tenderness in this maternal scene.

La Madone de la maison d'Orléans (Avant 1507) by RaphaëlChâteau de Chantilly

Painted around 1506–1507, during Raphaël's Florentine period, the Orléans family's Madonna amazes with its simplicity.

The harmoniously arranged primary colors contrast with the dark background, in which you can nevertheless distinguish pots on a shelf, inspired by Flemish painting.

In this uncluttered piece, the Virgin tenderly holds her son, who gives us a look of great gravity: we also know his macabre fate.

Madonna of humility, crowned by two flying angels and surrounded by six other angels (1483-1520) by Raffaello SanzioChâteau de Chantilly

Bearing witness to an unpreserved painting, which we know about thanks to two copies, this drawing depicts a humble Madonna. In other words, it represents the Virgin, seated on the ground, without a throne.

 She is surrounded by angels and holds her son on her knees.

This work should be placed at the end of Raphaël's Florentine period. The position of the Virgin, seen from the side, legs outstretched, is original and dynamic, unlike the frontal Madonnas that we have just seen.

Virgin and Child with infant Saint John and two saints (XVIe siècle) by Girolamo GengaChâteau de Chantilly

The influence of Raphaël on his contemporaries 

Raphaël greatly inspired his contemporaries. 

In this drawing by his compatriot Girolamo Genga, we find the pyramidal organization of the characters and the games of glances exchanged observed on the drawing created by Raphaël in preparation for La Belle Jardinière.

Woman, draped, kneeling, seen from three quarters to the left, head raised and hands clasped; man, seen in the bust, from three quarters to the left, right arm outstretched. (1483-1520) by Raffaello SanzioChâteau de Chantilly

End of his Florentine period

This rapidly executed preparatory drawing attests to Raphaël's mastery and technical ease at the end of his Florentine period.

Kneeling and beseeching Heaven, a woman emerges from the rapid outline created with just a few brush strokes and an intersection of unfinished figures, which reveals the geometric construction of the master’s compositions.

Despite the few materials used, we recognize the great skill that went into creating the character's expression of suffering.

The sketch was created in preparation for Pala Baglioni, or The  Borghèse Deposition (1507).

La Madone de Lorette (1509) by RaphaëlChâteau de Chantilly

Raphaël in Rome 

Madonna of Loreto is one of Raphaël's most famous works preserved in Chantilly. We see the Virgin, in a magnificent maternal gesture, both serious and resigned, enveloping the baby Jesus in her transparent veil. 

The shroud is symbolic, since it is reminiscent of funeral canvas, thus announcing the death of Christ. 

This painting was probably commissioned by Pope Julius II and made in Rome, where Raphaël enjoyed the peak of his career working at the Vatican. 

This painting was considered a mere copy at the time of the Duke of Aumale, until a study and restoration proved otherwise in the late 1970s.

Indeed, in the mid 16th century, authors mention a painting by Raphaël depicting the Virgin covering the child with her veil in the presence of Saint Joseph, shown during solemn feasts at the Church of Santa Maria del Popolo in Rome.

Purchased by Cardinal Sfondrato in 1591, the painting then passed into the hands of Cardinal Scipione Borghese and received, on the occasion of the 1693 inventory, the number 133, before disappearing among dozens of copies.

In 1976, the number 133 was rediscovered in the lower left corner of the work! This revelation, in addition to the undeniable workmanship of the then restored painting, confirms the exceptional origins of the Chantilly painting, acquired by the Duke of Aumale, and its authenticity: this is a real Raphaël!

Study for the Disputation of the Holy Sacrament: twenty clerics and ecclesiastics discussing (1483-1520) by Raffaello SanzioChâteau de Chantilly

This work was produced in Rome, where Raphaël was called in 1508 by Pope Julius II to decorate his private apartments in the Vatican. Throughout his frescoes, the artist develops a sense of drama and dynamism that elevates him to the rank of a master.

This drawing of The Study for the Dispute of the Blessed Sacrament was precisely drawn for the preparation of a famous fresco by Raphaël in the Vatican, located in the Signature Room.

The energy contained within this work is fascinating: we can feel the conflict among the characters, for example. In addition, the light work is remarkable. It's a homage to Leonardo da Vinci.

Man half draped, three-quarters to the right, carrying a burden (1514-1517) by Raffaello SanzioChâteau de Chantilly

The drawing and its students 

This drawing of a stone bearer executed in red chalk demonstrates great anatomical precision and has a sharp outline, which gives the character physical tension. 

During this period, Raphaël was in great demand and had to delegate the production of the frescoes to his assistants. However, he continued to design his drawings. 

Two apostles' heads (1514-1515) by Brussels workshop and Raffaello SanzioChâteau de Chantilly

Commissioned in 1515 by Pope Leo X, the tapestries of Acts of Apostles were woven in Brussels under the direction of the merchant-weaver, Pieter van Aelst.

It was Raphaël who designed the preparatory drawings, then, alongside his workshop, the full-scale cartoons that were sent to Brussels. This fragment comes from the second cartoon—the working one—created in Brussels and used to weave the tapestries.

Awakening Love Psyche (1492-1546) by Giulio RomanoChâteau de Chantilly

  Giulio Romano entered Raphaël's circle in around 1515-1516, in the midst of the Vatican construction sites. He rapidly became his first assistant. 

This drawing is particularly reminiscent of the lively and emotional compositions of his master. It was created in preparation for the decoration of the Tè Palace in Mantua

Here, we have a representation of Psyche emerging from Hell, the guardian of which—Cerberus—we see on the right. 

After receiving the vase of beauty from Proserpina and despite being defended, she opens it out of curiosity then falls into an eternal sleep. Cupid finally came to wake her with one of his arrows.

Project of wall decoration, with grotesques, and profile of a door surmounted by a trophy (1501-1547) by Perino Del VagaChâteau de Chantilly

Raphaël was charged with supervising and documenting the archaeological excavations in Rome. On this occasion, he rediscovers sets from the Domus Aurea of Nero, which inspired decorations that were called "grotesque." The term stems from works or paintings resembling what was found in a grotto (cave).

These decorative motifs combine animal, plant, and human representations, framed by fine structures (arabesques, garlands, and architecture). His students took on these motifs, as can be seen here, on this sheet belonging to the daring Perino del Vaga.

Les Trois Grâces (1503/1508) by RaphaëlChâteau de Chantilly

Five hundred years after Raphaël’s death, his art continues to elicit admiration. The master never ceased to research and innovate, as evidenced by the extraordinary collection at Chantilly. Featuring among the greatest creative geniuses in the history of art, he remains more than ever an inexhaustible source of surprise and questions.

Credits: Story

This virtual exhibition stems from the exhibition Raphaël in Chantilly: The Master and His Pupils, organized on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of Raphaël's death at Domaine de Chantilly, March 7–July 5, 2020. Curator: Mathieu Deldicque, Heritage Curator at the Condé Museum.


The texts are inspired by those in the exhibition catalog Raphaël in Chantilly: The Master and His Students, under the direction of Mathieu Deldicque, co-edited by Faton and Domaine de Chantilly editions, 2020

Virtual exhibition designed by Clara Voiry

Images ©RMN-Grand Palais Domaine de Chantilly

For all orders, please contact www.photo.rmn.fr

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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