Raphael's Drawings

Raphael's Drawings

Raphael's Drawings

Raphael's Drawings

Excerpt

. . . " Thou, my RAPHAEL go
Prosp'rous, and on the VATICAN'S proud Walls
Fix an eternal Name; an Air divine,
Sublimity of Thought, and Touch correct
Shall mark thy Labours till, in ONE combin'd,
Thy ev'ry Pow'r shall shine, and Nature's self
Grow jealous of thy Skill ."

Anonymous poem:

Ancient and Modern Rome , 1760

"The soul of modern man has no higher lord and guardian in the realm of the visibly beautiful than Raphael. For the work of the ancients has come down to us only in fragments, and their spirit never is our spirit." In these words Jakob Burckhardt drew the conclusion from his analysis of Raphael. Similar thought has been frequently expressed with great eloquence in the writings of the appointed guardians of English art of the later eighteenth and the early nineteenth centuries, so that some of our best testimonials of Raphael's greatness can be drawn from them. The harmonious eulogy by the Royal Academicians was only rarely marred by a discordant voice; and when Sir Joshua Reynolds, at one moment, did not seem to find the right key in his dicta about the artist, an outsider, Blake, took him severely to task. What we now like to call "the academic tradition" was actually the school of Raphael, extended down through the centuries. Are we not perhaps mistaken in looking with condescension or even scorn on these men who were united by common admiration for the artist? If uniformity in slavish imitation had been their aim, they would have betrayed their ideal, and the tradition would not have lived. Instead they drew their vigor from a deep, inner communion with the spirit of Raphael. It was his moral force, rather than the obvious graces of his art, which held together the endless line of his followers. These men reflect in every utterance some of his ethos. Thus it seems befitting that we take leave of our subject with a passage from a poem by one of the presidents of the Royal Academy, Sir Martin Archer Shee, which in delightful form -- though not great poetry -- sums up all that more than three centuries contributed to the understanding of Raphael.

"Swift as the comet cleaves th' etherial way,
As bright his lustre, and as brief his day,
Urbino rising to the raptured eye,
Appear'd, and blazed, and vanish'd from the sky.
Monarch of Art! in whose august domains,
Colleagued with Genius, soundest Judgment reigns;
Simplicity prevails without pretence,
And Fancy sports within the bounds of Sense.
By Nature's hand with liberal bounty graced,
And proudly fashion'd for the throne of Taste,
Before his age he sprang to painting's prime,
And forced his tardy fruits from ripening Time.
'Twas his, to choose the nobler end of Art . . .

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