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06 May 2020Raphael and Michaelangelo: Rivals in Rome

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Raphael and Michaelangelo: Rivals in Rome Sian Walters Wednesday 06 May 2020

Raphael is often referred to as one of the three giants of the High Renaissance in Italy, alongside Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, yet his fame and position in the canon of art history may seem hard to explain. He made no discoveries like those of his celebrated rivals: although undoubtedly a draughtsman of exceptional talent he made no great progress in the fields of anatomy, science and construction nor did he share the wide-ranging talents which Leonardo and Michelangelo demonstrated in so many disciplines. Furthermore, his career was short-lived as he died tragically young, aged 37. Yet in this relatively short space of time Raphael managed to move from humble initial commissions in and around his home town of Urbino to the covetous position of one of the leading artists at the court of the most important patron in Italy, Pope Julius II, for whom he created some of the most sublime and influential frescoes of the early 16th century. We explore how Raphael achieved this extraordinary rise in status, tracing the development of early works and influences to the masterpieces created in Rome.

In her second talk, Sian explores the work of Michelangelo in Rome and his rivalry with contemporary artists, with particular reference to the question of art criticism and how a particular writer may have shaped our understanding of artists over time. Probably one of the most interesting relationships is that of Michelangelo and the author Giorgio Vasari, who in 1550 published “The Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects”, one of the most important and influential books ever to be written about art. It contains a comprehensive and highly favourable biography of Michelangelo. Nevertheless some of the facts were contested, resulting in a subsequent biography written (probably under the influence of the artist himself) by Ascanio Condivi in 1553. We explore differences in the two texts, as well as Vasari’s biographies of Raphael and Sebastiano. 

Sian Walters studied at Cambridge University. She is a lecturer at the National Gallery and The Wallace Collection and taught at Surrey University, specialising in 15th and 16th century Italian painting, Spanish art & architecture, and the relationship between dance and art. She also teaches private courses and organises lectures, study days and art holidays abroad. She has lived in France and Italy, where she worked at the Peggy Guggenheim Museum in Venice.