2017 SCSC Annual Conference, Milwaukee, WI
IAS-Sponsored Session

Revisiting Raphael’s Vatican Stanze: Papal Power and Artistic Agency in Sixteenth-Century Rome I

Saturday, October 28, 2017, 10:30-12:00pm

Organizer: Tracy C. Cosgriff, College of Wooster, OH

Chair: Kim Butler Wingfield, American University


Tracy C. Cosgriff, College of Wooster, OH
“Vida’s Parnassus and Raphael’s Ars Poetica.”

In Raphael’s Stanza della Segnatura, once the private library of Pope Julius II (1503-1513), the great authors of the Western tradition are assembled in a sweeping visual catalogue. The library’s only surviving inventory names an otherwise overlooked author: Marco Girolamo Vida, the ordained priest, esteemed poet, and contemporary of Raphael. The author of the papal epic Juliad, Vida joined the Vatican court at nearly the same moment as Raphael, but his work has never risen from obscurity in the study of the Stanza or its images. Vida’s most famous treatise, his De arte poetica, describes artistic practice in strikingly visual language as a process based dually on imitation and divine inspiration. Like Raphael’s Poetry wall, Vida’s principal metaphor is Parnassus, where Apollo and the Muses nurture the verse of ancient and modern poets alike. In this paper, I propose that Vida’s writings offer a new and unconsidered lens for measuring Raphael’s poetic inventions in the Stanza della Segnatura. From this fresh examination, it becomes clear that to describe the literary landscape of Julian Rome, Raphael devised a commensurate pictorial vocabulary as inheritor and critic, and that by transforming Vida’s ekphrastic verse, Raphael endowed his compositions with an analogous syntax, staking his own place in the poetic pantheon.

Maria Ruvoldt, Fordham University
“Rethinking the Pensieroso

Amid the discussion and debate that animates Raphael’s School of Athens, a solitary figure stands out. Seated in the foreground, resting his head upon his hand in the traditional attitude of melancholic contemplation, Heraclitus is removed from the dynamic exchanges taking place around him, and turns inward upon himself, lost in thought. The muscular figure of the philosopher, leaning on a marble block, his pen hovering over a page of unfinished verse, has long been understood as Raphael’s tribute to his rival, Michelangelo, even if its status as a portrait of the Florentine artist is contested. The figure famously does not appear in the cartoon for the fresco preserved in the Ambrosiana, and technical examination proves that it was a later addition, requiring a reapplication of plaster. Precisely when this intervention occurred is unclear, and Raphael’s motivations for making the change are something of a mystery. But this is not the only instance of change recorded in Raphael’s Stanze. The frescoes suffered damage during the Sack of Rome when, according to Titian, German soldiers set fires in the Stanze and ruined several heads in the paintings. The graffiti they carved is still visible today, but the frescoes were restored by Sebastiano del Piombo, Michelangelo’s dear friend and artistic collaborator. This paper will consider the afterlife of the School of Athens, from the conception recorded in the cartoon, through the Sack of Rome, to our present understanding of its meaning, focusing primarily on the figure of Heraclitus and its history.

Patricia Reilly, Swarthmore College
“Fixing the Ephemeral: The Basamenti Paintings in the Vatican Stanze”

This paper will consider the relationship between the paintings Julius II and Leo X commissioned from Raphael and his workshop for the Vatican Stanze, and the ephemeral art created for the papal possessi of these two pontiffs. Specifically, this paper will consider what the subject matter, techniques, and pictorial formats employed in the basamenti of the Stanze walls might tell us about the larger meaning of these rooms.

Back to Conference

Officers & Contacts