It is this remarkable period in art history that is the subject of a new exhibition, Rome After Raphael, atThe Morgan Library & Museum. Featuring more than eighty works selected almost exclusively from the Morgan’s exceptional collection of Italian drawings, the exhibition brings to light the intense artistic activity in Rome from the Renaissance to the beginning of the Baroque period, approximately from 1500 to 1600.
The exhibition is the first in New York to focus solely on Roman Renaissance and Mannerist drawings, beginning with Raphael and ending with the dawn of a new era, the Baroque, as seen in the art of Annibale Carracci. It includes striking examples by Raphael and Michelangelo as well as works by artists associated with the dominant stylistic traditions established by these two iconic figures.
Among the prominent artists represented are: Baldassare Peruzzi, Polidoro da Caravaggio, Giulio Romano, Perino del Vaga, Parmigianino, Daniele da Volterra, Francesco Salviati, Pirro Ligorio, Pellegrino Tibaldi, Taddeo Zuccaro, Girolamo Muziano, Cesare Nebbia, Federico Zuccaro, Raffaellino da Reggio, and Giuseppe Cesari, called Il Cavaliere d’Arpino.
The exhibition also features Giulio Clovio’s sumptuous Farnese hours, one of the greatest illuminated manuscripts, as well as the Codex Mellon—an architectural treatise on key Roman sites and projects, including Raphael’s design for St. Peter’s—and a magnificent gilt binding of the period. Also on view is a Raphael workshop painting from the Morgan depicting the Holy Family, which has recently undergone a technical examination.
“The quality and importance of the Morgan’s collection of sixteenth-century Italian drawings has long been recognized,” remarked Morgan director William M. Griswold. “Although individual sheets have appeared in major exhibitions in Europe and the United States, the Morgan has never before brought together so many outstanding works from this period and place in one show. Seen together for the first time, the drawings convey the opulence and artistic diversity of this pivotal period.”
It was during the reign of Pope Julius II, elected in 1503, that Rome embarked on a century-long program of renewal and restoration. By the time Pope Clement VIII died in 1605, the overarching political and artistic ambitions of popes, cardinals, and foreign dignitaries had given rise to one of the richest periods in art history, transforming Rome into the unrivaled cultural capital of Europe.
Numerous drawings in the exhibition are related to Roman projects and commissions, including elaborate schemes for fresco decorations for city palaces, rural villas, and funerary chapels as well as altarpieces, tapestry designs, and views of recently discovered antiquities. The exhibition also opens a window into the artistic sensibility and lavish patronage of the period, from Julius II—patron of both Michelangelo and Raphael and arguably the most culturally sophisticated of the popes—to his successor Leo X and the “Gran Cardinale” Alessandro Farnese and his nephew Odoardo. Cardinal Ippolito d’Este and the Medici also generated luxurious commissions as they competed to create their own legacies in chapels, palaces, and villas.
Through their sheer quality and novelty, the works of Raphael and Michelangelo in the Vatican established a tradition that resonated throughout the history of Western art. The exhibition brings to the fore the central artistic dialectic of the century: the rivalry between the legacies of Raphael, whose work epitomizes elegant restraint and clear narrative style, and that of Michelangelo, characterized by high drama and muscular nudes.