By: Amy Fredrickson
During the summer of 2017, while cleaning The Vatican Museum’s Hall of Constantine, conservators discovered two Raphael paintings within the fresco. Pope Julius II commissioned Raphael to paint his papal apartments in 1508, and the artist finished three of the rooms, which are known today as the ‘Raphael Rooms.’ Julius II died in 1513, and Pope Leo X continued the program.
Leo X commissioned Raphael to began a fourth room—the largest of them all—called the Hall of Constantine. Raphael planned to use oil rather than his traditional fresco technique for these wall paintings. In the midst of cleaning, conservators noticed that the paintings of Friendshipand Justice were executed in oil during the restoration process. Justice and Friendship are presumed to be Raphael’s final works prior to his untimely death in 1520. Raphael painted the works around 1519; however, he died prior to finishing the Pope’s project.
The newly discovered paintings also correspond with Vasari’s comment in Lives, when he states that Raphael experimented with oil on two female figures; however, the works whereabouts were unknown, until now. After he died, his students continued to use the traditional fresco method. The use of ultraviolet and infrared photos proved that these two paintings were unlike the rest of the wall paintings and correspond with Raphael’s brushwork. Another clue to lead to Raphael’s attribution is that there are no preparatory drawings underneath the paint layers, which leads scholar to believe that these paintings are in fact Raphael’s final paintings.
Roger Jones and Nicholas Penny, Raphael (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1983).
Giorgio Vasari, The Lives of the Artists (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1971).
Detail of Justice, c.1519, Fresco, Sala di Constantino, Palazzi Pontifici, Vatican
Justice, c.1519, Fresco, Sala di Constantino, Palazzi Pontifici, Vatican
The Battle at Pons Milieus, 1520-24, Fresco, Sala di Constantino, Palazzi Pontifici, Vatican
Portrait of Julius II, 1511, Oil on Panel, National Gallery, London
Pope Leo X with Cardinals Giulio de’ Medici and Luigi de’ Rossi, 1518, Oil on panel, Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence