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

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

Saturday, October 28, 2017 1:30-3:00pm

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

Chair: Sheryl E. Reiss, University of Southern California


Kim Butler Wingfield, American University
"Doctrinal Controversies and the Room of Heliodorus"

This paper analyzes the overarching program of the Room of Heliodorus (1511-1514), which has traditionally been interpreted to represent the divine protection of the authority of the Roman Church in the context of schism anxieties. Here the frescoes are considered in light of contemporary theological controversies, including Hussitism and Immortality of the Soul debates, which suggests continuity with particular topics of interest to Julius II that had been represented in the decoration of the first Stanza, his private library. The potential for formal and conceptual dialogue between the Julian frescoes in the two rooms is assessed, together with the extent to which the final fresco, the Encounter of Leo the Great with Attila for Julius’s successor Pope Leo X, marks a point of rupture or continuity with the original room program.

Elizabeth McCahill, University of Massachusetts, Boston
“'Tu, unica spes mea': The Stanza dell’Incendio and the Ideological Agenda of Pope Leo X"

On temporary triumphal arches and in papal letters, in the Raphael tapestries and in the halls of the Fifth Lateran Council, the apparently paradoxical themes of peace and crusade recur as hallmarks of Pope Leo X’s reign. They are also prominent in the Stanza dell’Incendio, where Raphael depicts two scenes of pope Leo III (795-816) negotiating with Charlemagne and a third scene of Pope Leo IV (847-855) and the papal forces besting the Saracens at the Battle of Ostia. This paper will examine the messages about the European balance of power and the Turkish menace that are conveyed in the Stanza dell’Incendio, providing rhetorical and political context for them. To sixteenth century Europeans, the Turks were a dangerous enemy but also a sign of the imminence of the Second Coming and thus the final peace that would follow the Last Judgment. Peace among European princes was the necessary precondition for any offensive effort against the Ottomans, and Leo and his court also hoped that military action in the East would free Italy from the constant scourge of Christian invaders. Using speeches from the Fifth Lateran Council as well as Pietro Galatino’s De res publica christiana, this paper will discuss the range of ways in which the Curia sought to disseminate a vision of the pope as the unifier of Europe and the scourge of the Ottomans in the period just before the Protestant Reformation.

Linda Wolk-Simon, Fairfield University Art Museum
"Papal Politics and Propaganda in the Decorative Program of the Sala dei Pontefici, 1519 –1521"

Located directly below the Sala di Costantino, contiguous to the Borgia apartments, the Sala dei Pontefici was decorated by Raphael’s disciples Giovanni da Udine and Perino del Vaga in the last years of the pontificate of Leo X. Although not literally part of the four-room suite that comprises the Vatican Stanze, its physical proximity to the last and largest of those chambers, its chronology, its patron, and its pedigree as a Raphael workshop production (conceivably begun during the master’s lifetime), all link the Sala dei Pontifici to the papal apartments above. Indeed, were a slightly enlarged and more elastic definition of the Stanze to be formulated, the Sala dei Ponteifici would easily be accommodated in this rubric. An analysis of the little-known imagery of the Sala di Pontefici (which is referred to interchangeably with the Sala di Costantino as the Sala dei papi, among other designations, in contemporary documents) reveals that many of the tropes and historical references that inform the imagery of the later Stanze frescoes and other Leonine commissions are also present here. The artistic program is not just reiterative, however; it is also an extension, and culmination, of components of the Sala di Costantino’s iconographic scheme—further grounds for considering it in the context of the Stanze. Such ubiquitous Leonine preoccupations as the Turkish threat, the Protestant revolt, and papal supremacy over temporal powers were among the iconographic imperatives the artists were charged with realizing —exceptionally, and in keeping with their particular gifts, in non-narrative form.

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