Raphaels Drawings

For many years, the ALBERTINA Museum has been one of the foremost centers of research on the oeuvre of Raphael. Numerous publications and exhibitions realized by the museum’s scholars have led to an improved understanding and a re-evaluation of Raphael’s artistic output.

A preeminent position here is occupied by the work of former ALBERTINA Museum director Konrad Oberhuber, who was known as a preeminent authority on the artist. In various essays published from the 1960s onward - and above all in his professorial thesis, Raphaels Zeichnungen, Abteilung IX, Entwürfe zu Werken Raphaels und seiner Schule im Vatikan 1511/12 bis 1520 [Volume 9 of Raphael’s Drawings. Sketches for Works by Raphael and his Pupils in the Vatican, 1511/12 to 1520] (Berlin 1972) - Oberhuber laid the foundation for a better understanding of Raphael’s late works and the distinctions between the master and his pupils. And to this day, the monograph that he authored in 1983 (and republished in 1999 in an expanded and revised edition) remains the unexcelled standard work on the artist. In 1983, to mark the quincentenary of Raphael’s birth, Erwin Mitsch conceived an exhibition in which the drawings held by the ALBERTINA Museum were subjected to comprehensive analysis and critical examination for the first time. That same year saw publication of a catalogue of Raphael’s complete drawings by Eckhart Knab, Erwin Mitsch, and Konrad Oberhuber; to this day, it remains the only fundamental work on this material to have been written in German.  The major 1999 exhibition Raphael und der klassische Stil in Rom 1515–1527 [Raphael and the Classicist Style in Rome], shown in Vienna and Mantua, was devoted to Raphael’s late style and his relationship with his students, and it introduced a multitude of new attributions of drawings that had traditionally been viewed as works by the master but, since the late 19th century, had been dismissed as works by his pupils.


These research findings are now serving as the basis for an exhibition at the ALBERTINA Museum that will take place from 26 September 2017 to 7 January 2018 and encompass Raphael’s entire oeuvre. This is a collaborative project with the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, which holds the largest and most representative collection of drawings by the artist - and together, the Ashmolean Museum and the ALBERTINA Museum are home to nearly 140 of Raphael’s works on paper. This exhibition will thus provide a first-ever opportunity to present all of the important projects undertaken Raphael in his various creative phases, from the early Umbrian Period (up to 1504) to his years in Florence (1504/1505-1508) and on to the Roman Period (1508/1509-1520). To this end, a selection of the most important, most significant, and most beautiful drawings from both collections is being made. Furthermore, we are requesting additional works on paper from an international list of museums in order to present as complete an impression as possible of Raphael as a draughtsman.
This exhibition, conceived in Oxford by Catherine Whistler and Ben Thomas in collaboration with the ALBERTINA Museum, will first be shown at the Ashmolean Museum from 25 May to 3 September 2017 and be entitled Raphael and the Eloquence of Drawing. The Ashmolean’s presentation will analyze the rhetoric of the motifs shown in Raphael’s drawn oeuvre, investigating the artistic techniques via which elements such as specific gestures, physiognomies, and the depiction of draperies were employed as expressive vehicles for the individual characterization of his figures.

The presentation at the ALBERTINA Museum, to be curated by Achim Gnann, will take on questions that address the processes by which major works were planned - and thus also address the relationship between Raphael’s sketches and preliminary drawings and his finished paintings. Since the artist always drew with a specific purpose in mind (i.e., with an eye to realizing a finished work of art), there arises the question as to the relationship between preliminary works - including sketches, figural studies, modelli, and cartoons - and a painting’s final realisation. In the interest of shedding light on this relationship, the ALBERTINA Museum will also be showing paintings by the artist. The presentation in Oxford, on the other hand, will concentrate purely on drawings.

In Vienna, comprehensive documentation of the master’s drawing activities will facilitate examination of the methods employed by Raphael in conceiving his works and the processes by which he prepared for the realisation of his panel and/or canvas paintings and frescos. In doing so, research will also be devoted to the materials Raphael used during specific years of his career, as well as to whether materials such as silverpoint, quill pen and ink, charcoal, and sanguine were employed in a deliberate manner in order to adequately fulfill the various tasks involved. The broad range exhibited by the rich holdings of drawn works in this presentation will offers a unique opportunity to analyze these questions in a definitive way and make them more understandable to those visiting the exhibition. Furthermore, analysis will be devoted to Raphael’s activities during his late Roman years, during which he involved pupils and members of his workshop in the realisation of his works more extensively than had previously been the case: there still exists widespread disagreement among scholars as to the overall extent of Raphael’s activities as a draughtsman during the final years of his life.

The Ashmolean Museum is currently employing state-of-the-art technologies to examine Raphael’s drawings as to the materials used and possible preliminary sketches, and in a similar project by ALBERTINA Museum starting in February 2016, an infrared camera will be the main device used to investigate whether additional drawings can be discovered on these pages’ reverse sides (which are mounted on cardboard with glue)—drawings that could possibly be revealed in a further step. With the intensive study currently being devoted Raphael’s oeuvre, this late-2017 exhibition will likely feature important new research findings and various new attributions of drawings to Raphael.
Univ. Doz. Dr. Achim Gnann

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