India International Centre



An exhibition of selected drawings of the Renaissance Master, Raphael Sanzio

Second exhibition organised to commemorate the 500th death anniversary of Raphael Sanzio (1483-1520), master painter and architect of Italian High Renaissance, one of the most influential and naturally gifted artists in the history of art

The online exhibition is on view from 5th to 18th October 2020

Raphael Drawings

Raphael was one of the finest draftsmen in the history of Western art, and used drawings extensively to plan his compositions. The execution of a vast number of studies in a variety of techniques was Raphael’s standard practice. According to a near-contemporary, when beginning to plan a composition, he would lay out a large number of stock drawings of his on the floor, and begin to draw "rapidly", borrowing figures from here and there. The number of extant drawings is over four hundred, however, this is only a fraction of the quantity he produced. He used different drawings to refine his poses and compositions, apparently to a greater extent than most other painters, to judge by the number of variants that survive: "... This is how Raphael himself, who was so rich in inventiveness, used to work, always coming up with four or six ways to show a narrative, each one different from the rest, and all of them full of grace and well done." wrote another writer after his death. For John Shearman, Raphael's art marks "a shift of resources away from production to research and development".

When a final composition was achieved, scaled-up full-size cartoons were often made, which were then pricked with a pin and "pounced" with a bag of soot to leave dotted lines on the surface as a guide. He also made unusually extensive use, on both paper and plaster, of a "blind stylus", scratching lines which leave only an indentation, but no mark. These can be seen on the wall in The School of Athens, and in the originals of many drawings. The "Raphael Cartoons", as tapestry designs, were fully coloured in a glue distemper medium, as they were sent to Brussels to be followed by the weavers.

During his association with Perugino's workshop he acquired proficiency in the use of silverpoint, a method in which the metal tip of a stylus is worked on a prepared ground applied to the paper. It is a highly disciplined procedure that demands superior skill. Raphael displayed great virtuosity with silverpoint, and continued its use into his mature period.

Raphael first used pen and ink extensively in the period after 1505, when he was open to the influence of Leonardo's and Michelangelo's approaches to drawing. Drawings in pen and ink often combined washes in ink or lead white, applied with a brush, in order to add tonal qualities.

Raphael employed black chalk from the time of his earliest drawings, while he came to the consistent use of red chalk later in his work, starting from around 1514. Red chalk can be sharpened to a hard point and handled like a stylus; manipulated differently, it renders very delicate and extensive modulations of tone. In some of Raphael's studies, outlines from a stylus lie under the red chalk drawing.

Drawings had a crucial function in the realization of Raphael's art. They were not only the patterns for final works, but the means of their development; they shaped the creative process at the same time as they documented it. And, considering the vast projects executed collaboratively, they were the guarantee of the identification of the final product with the master who conceived the design.

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