Passing the Mantle
The identification of the sitters in Raphael’s enigmatic double portrait in the Louvre has attracted much historical speculation. If, as seems likely, the two men are the artist and his pupil Giulio Romano, the interpretation of the painting casts a fascinating light on how artistic training and inheritance were conceived in the early 16th century.
Tom Henry, Friday, 23rd November 2012
The canvas that hangs in the Grande Galerie of the Musée du Louvre in Paris, now widely known as Raphael’s Self-Portrait with a Friend, has generated much discussion and a large bibliography.1 It has attracted various titles over time – from the romantic Raphael and his Fencing Master (an early attempt to explain the sword hilt that is visible in front of the right-hand figure), through a host of individual portrait identifications, to a depiction of an allegory of artistic practice. While consensus has formed around identifying Raphael as the figure on the left (even this needs examination), none of the proposals for identifying the figure on the right has proved totally convincing, although one previous suggestion looks plausible.
What has united a large swathe of modern commentary are the related premises that the identity of the figures is important and is key to understanding the picture’s meaning; and that the physical and psychological relationship between the two figures must be part of any identification, and so of the interpretation of the picture. Moreover, one should perhaps state clearly that this picture is not just a likeness of two individuals, but that it has a meaning that is lost to us unless we can identify the figures and understand the relationship that is portrayed.
In what follows I aim to demonstrate that Raphael (Raffaello di Giovanni Santi, 1483–1520) has painted his self-portrait in the company of Giulio di Pietro Pippi (called Giulio Romano, c. 1499–1546), just before the former’s death that saw the latter inherit his workshop and his role as the leading painter in Rome. Amongst the ways in which one can interpret this image are that it shows the older artist restraining the impetuous character of the younger; the younger showing something to his master; as an allusion to a quasi-paternal relationship; as a symbolic passing of the mantle from one generation to the next; or as a demonstration of the proposition of two artists, one hand. All of these interpretations are part of the following discussion of this painting, and it should be recognised that it is typical of Raphael to create an image of such sophistication.2 The double portrait in the Louvre has been recorded in France from the early 17th century, and from 1683 the left-hand figure has been recognised as Raphael’s self-portrait.3 This bearded man wears a dark jacket or cloak over a loose, wide-necked white shirt. He rests his left hand on the shoulder of the man in front of him, and his right forearm, where the dark sleeve tends towards purple hues, is visible in line with the other man’s lower back (in fact it almost seems to merge with the foreground figure’s right arm – this is discussed below).4 Several portraits or self-portraits of Raphael can be compared with the Louvre painting to establish the identity of this individual.5 Excluding some very youthful drawings, Raphael’s earliest self-portrait is in the Uffizi, painted c. 1506 and described since 1631 as ‘un ritratto di Raffaello di sua mano’), in which the choice of a black cloak worn over a dark shirt and a white undershirt fits into a recent (and relevant) tradition of artists’ self-portraits in central Italy.6 Raphael also painted his self-portrait in a rich red cloak in the School of Athens in the Stanza della Segnatura of the Vatican Palace (c. 1509–10), perhaps in the company of another individual involved in the decoration of the Vatican Stanze, and as a bystander or witness to the main event. Both these self-portraits differ significantly from the canvas in the Louvre, and Raphael seems not to have painted his self-portrait in the early years of Leo X’s pontificate – he was probably too busy.7 Raphael’s appearance towards the end of his life is confirmed by three complementary sources. The latest of these is an inscribed engraving signed by Giulio Bonasone (c. 1510–after 1576), who was a pupil of Marcantonio Raimondi (c. 1480–c. 1534) and so is likely to have had access to a likeness of Raphael. This print identifies the sitter as Raphael and probably dates to the 1540s. Armed with this identified likeness, Raimondi’s own engraving of a figure sitting alone beside a painting, and wrapped in a voluminous heavy cloak (Fig. 4), is probably confirmed as a contemporaneous portrait of Raphael, as it has been described from the 17th century onwards.8 It probably dates to c. 1519–20 and could even have been the source of Bonasone’s knowledge of Raphael’s appearance.
Both these likenesses of Raphael compare reasonably well with the left-hand figure in the Paris portrait, and tend to confirm the attribution of the sitter (he is in fact standing) as Raphael. A further proof is apparently furn- ished by a contemporary copy after the figure of Raphael in the Louvre, or possibly after another very similar image. This frescoed roundel (Fig. 5) is found on the ceiling of a room (referred to as the cancelleria) in the suburban villa in Rome of Baldassare Turini (1485–1543): the Villa Lante al Gianicolo. Turini was a close friend of Raphael and one of the executors of the artist’s will. The Villa Lante was built, apparently to Giulio Romano’s design, between 1519 and 1524. The fresco decoration, which is usually attributed to Giulio’s workshop (but has also been given to Giovanni da Udine or to Vincenzo Tamagni), seems to have been executed in the mid-decade (just before or just after Giulio’s departure for Mantua) and so by Raphael’s artistic heir and for one of his closest friends.9 This is probably good enough to serve as final confirmation that the Paris picture shows Raphael, but it should be noted that he was not identified as such in these frescoes and it has not been explained why (assuming this is Raphael) he appears in the company of three Tuscan poets.10 The figure on the right, who is also bearded but younger, is dressed in a not dissimilar fashion. He seems to wear a dark cloak over a creamy tailored shirt or jacket and a white undershirt. His left hand rests on the hilt of a sword and his foreshortened right hand gestures out of the picture. He turns his head around over his right shoulder to look up at his companion. There have been many suggestions for who this foreground figure might be – an anonymous fencing master, Bernardino Pinturicchio, Baldassare Castiglione, Gianfrancesco Penni, Giovanni da Udine, Polidoro da Caravaggio, Marcantonio Raimondi, Baldassare Peruzzi, Antonio da Sangallo, Giovanni Battista Branconio dell’Aquila, Pietro Aretino11 – but one of the most convincing is that he is Giulio Romano. This seems to have been suggested for the first time by Wilhelm Suida in 1941, and the prop- osal was received positively a few years later by Frederick Hartt.12 It was subsequently reproposed by Paul Joannides with reference to Titian’s portrait in Mantua (discussed below).13 None of these scholars have brought together all of the elements that follow.
Unfortunately, and unlike Raphael, we do not know Giulio’s date of birth, which is presumed to have been c. 1499. He apparently entered Raphael’s workshop in the mid 1510s and was given significant independence by at least 1518, when he can be identified as the unnamed garzone largely responsible for the execution of the portrait of Doña Isabel de Requesens y Enriquez de Cardona-Anglesola in the Louvre.14 We have no secure portrait, or self-portrait, of Giulio from his Roman years, but (as Hartt had noted) Giorgio Vasari, in his Lives of the Artists, remarked that Giulio had included himself in the Donation of Constantine in the Sala di Costantino of the Vatican Palace, which was painted in 1524.15 John Shearman rejected this and tried to find his likeness elsewhere in the Sala di Costantino,16 but there are reasonable grounds for accepting Vasari’s original suggestion and identifying Giulio as the
figure in green in the left middleground of the Donation.17 This youthful figure has the curly dark hair, full beard and pronounced nose that is also found in the Paris portrait, which was painted just a few years earlier. As Joannides noted, the features of the sitter can also be compared with Titian’s portrait of Giulio in the Palazzo Ducale at Mantua (Fig. 7), which was painted approx-imately 11 years later than the self-portrait in the Donation of Constantine and about 15 years after the Louvre double portrait.18 This canvas in Mantua is the first secure portrait of Giulio, whose likeness is also known from a copy after a portrait (or possibly after a self-portrait) in the Uffizi.19 If these identifications are correct we can begin to explain the image. The relationship between the two figures in the Louvre portrait is close, but it is also hierarchical – another reason to exclude many of the other proposals for the younger figure’s identity and a further confirmation of the identification proposed here.20 Both Raphael and Giulio were right-handed artists and Raphael’s right arm is in a position where it could be said to manipulate or even become Giulio’s right hand. Raphael’s forearm is clearly horizontal, not by his side, and Raphael certainly knew Luca Signorelli’s figure of the preaching antichrist at Orvieto, whose actions were shown as being manip-ulated by the figure behind him (in this case, the devil). There may be a play here on the idea of two artists, one hand; and there is
an intriguing conjunction with the Italian formulation for multiple authorship. During Raphael’s lifetime the role of his assistants was largely glossed over in the surviving docum-ents. There were non-specific references to Raphael’s garzoni or gioveni and none of these were ever mentioned by name. Very occas-ionally works were described as having been entrusted entirely to an assistant (as with the Doña Isabel de Requesens y Enriquez de Cardona-Anglesola in the Louvre); and there was some contemporary comment that differentiated between Raphael’s personal responsibility and works that were executed by his boys (exemplified in Pietro Bembo’s comments of April 1516).21 On one occasion, after Raphael’s death, the Monteluce Coronation was described in a contemporary document as ‘per la mano di maestro Rafaello e Joanne Francesco Penni e Giulio sui discepoli’22 – and this is the only document to name the master with his two principal assistants who jointly inherited Raphael’s workshop and his unfinished projects (as well, perhaps, as other items) on their master’s death in April 1520. Giulio and Gianfrancesco Penni (c. 1488/96–1528) were again named by biographer Paolo Giovio in 1525, and again the context was their skill in emulating their master’s style (specifically his manum or hand): in other words in the seamless creation of a single hand.23 The joint production of works in a single named style was the traditional function of a workshop, but Raphael took this to new levels in the last seven years of his life – entrusting design and execution to his shop and placing particular trust in Giulio to act as his amanuensis.
Raphael’s left hand rests on the shoulder of the younger man – again suggestive of hierarchy and also of a quasi-paternal presentation of Giulio by Raphael. Vasari claimed that Raphael could not have loved Giulio more if he had been his own son, and there may have been more to this than rhetorical flourish.24 The young artist was commonly referred to as ‘Giulio de mastro Rafaello di Roma’, or ‘Iulio Raphaelis de Urbino pictori’, which although it was not unprecedented was still unusual.25 Usual practice would have been to insert Giulio’s patronymic, Pietro, just as it was common practice to name a first-born son after one’s father. Giulio instead named his first-born son Raffaello – further stressing his almost filial relationship with his former master.26 This close association with one’s master had very deep roots and involved both tracing one’s artistic inheritance and – in some cases – the formal adoption of talented pupils. Marco Zoppo (c. 1432–78) signed pictures as ‘Zoppo di Squarcione’, recognising his teacher in the process; Marco Palmezzano (c. 1460–1539) would sign works as ‘Marco de Melozzo’ in reference to his time with Melozzo da Forlì (c. 1438–94). When Giovanni Santi (Raphael’s father) or Luca Pacioli listed the leading artists of their time they were frequently described with reference to their master.27 And, as seen above, Giulio named his first-born son Raffaello in homage to his master. Each of these examples represent a younger artist associating himself (or being associated by others) with his master, but artists also wanted to have heirs and the practice can be expanded upon with reference to masters adopting their pupils, as Francesco Squarcione (c. 1394–1468) did with Mantegna (c. 1431–1506).
Adoption had been an important aspect of patronage in ancient Rome, and adopted sons were apparently known in medieval Latin as filii mantelati, and were thought of as having been taken under the cloak of their adoptive patron. This practice continued into medieval Europe, and Scottish law had a concept of ‘mantle children’ (also: mantel-kinder in German; enfants de manteau in French) who had been adopted. The usual purpose was continuation of the family line, and so legitimisation of an heir, but it was also associated with elevation from a lower to a higher social status. Raphael would have known of these associations; and there is every reason to think that he would also have known of the Old Testament connections.
Our modern sense of passing the mantle from one generation to the next has its roots in the Old Testament, where a cloak denoted leadership, even prophecy, and was passed from Elijah to Elisha (1 Kings, 19:19). Whether the origin of the practice of artists and cloak-giving is Roman or biblical, it is highly suggestive and seems not to have been studied or observed. The double portrait in Paris can then be seen (alongside other interpretations) as a symbolic bestowing of a cloak on Raphael’s principal assistant. Raphael’s will has not survived but its terms were very well known. In addition to money to be divided amongst his extended workshop, and property legacies to his family in Urbino, he left the tools of his trade, and the stock of unfinished work and commissions, to his principal artistic heirs, Giulio and Penni.28 That he may also have given one or both of them cloaks – either as a gift before death, or as an item in his will – is suggested by Giulio’s own will, which was made four years later (on 29 April 1524).
This surviving will contains all the standard familial legacies that you would expect, and that can be compared with his father’s will of 1521; but there is also a section with bequests to Raffaellino del Colle (his closest artistic assistant but not a blood relation). As well as receiving the tools in Giulio’s workshop, and the stock of works that had been started and not yet completed – i.e. exactly the items that were known to have passed from Raphael to Giulio and Penni – Raffaellino (c. 1490–1566) was to be given: ‘unam cappam et unum saionem de cappis et saionibus melioribus ipsius testatoris, panni nigri’ (‘a cloak and a saione [loose-fitting waistcoat] from the best cloaks and saioni of the said testator, in black cloth’).29 Given that the first two terms appear to reflect Raphael’s own (undocumented) legacy, it is entirely possible that in addition to inheriting Raphael’s workshop and commissions, Giulio (again, no relation) also received a dark cloak from Raphael. Indeed this may be suggested by the portrait in Paris.
This legacy from Giulio to Raffaellino, and the possible origin of this in a gift from Raphael to Giulio, becomes more significant when it can be related to a broader practice of cloak-giving. In October 1523, Luca Signorelli (c. 1450–1523) revised his will for the seventh and last time. The elderly artist commended his soul to the Virgin Mary, and asked that he be buried in the church of San Francesco. His son Tommaso was named as his universal heir and so inherited the majority of the artist’s property, but Luca’s artist-nephew, Francesco Signorelli, was left a dark cloak (‘unum dicti testatoris tabarum panni monachini’) that Luca had been given by Siena’s ruler, Pandolfo Petrucci, with the instruction that this should be handed over immediately; presumably so that Francesco could wear it at Luca’s funeral and perhaps as a symbolic taking on of the mantle.30 Crucially this treasured cloak did not pass to Luca’s closest blood relative and universal heir (Tommaso), but instead to the nephew with whom Luca had worked for the previous decade, and who went on to have an active independent career as a painter.
It was not specifically stated that Francesco Signorelli (c. 1490/95–1553) would inherit the workshop, but Luca accepted commissions up until his death and Francesco furnished these pictures, and others loosely based on Luca’s repertoire in the 1520s and 1530s, signing one altarpiece in the town of Gubbio. Luca demonstrated his taste for being seen in a long black cloak in his self-portrait on the left-hand side of the Deeds of the Antichrist at Orvieto, where he wears a black hat and is dressed in black shoes and leggings, a black collarless shirt over a white undershirt, and a calf-length black cloak with slits for his arms and long wide sleeves, one of which is looped over his right arm. For reasons that are not necessary to discuss here we can be sure that the cloak in which Luca is seen at Orvieto is not the one that he left to Francesco, but the role of cloaks in artistic self-presentation and legacy-building is evident.31 In this context Raphael’s actions can be explained and it seems that he is simultan-eously operating through, adopting and elevating his brilliant pupil. The sword that Giulio rests his hand upon may be meant to suggest this elevation of his social status. One of the objections that has been made to ident- ifying the figure as any one of the young artists proposed has been the presumption that a sword could only be carried by a man of higher rank. In fact society was more porous and there is evidence of the arriviste presumption of young artists in the period. Il Sodoma (1477–1549) purchased a sword that had belonged to a Milanese gentleman who had entered the Olivetan Abbey at Monte Oliveto Maggiore as a novice in 1506, and showed himself wearing this newly acquired weapon (and other items including a long cloak) in the foreground of How Saint Benedict repaired the broken tray (1507).32 And in the inventory of Giulio’s house that was made in 1573, six swords are listed and some are described in great detail.33 In the years that immediately followed Raphael’s death, Giulio’s independent work became darker, figurally over-ambitious and compositionally agitated, almost precarious.
It seems that without the calming influence of Raphael, these aspects of Giulio’s nature were no longer held in check – and there were also clearly feuds in the workshop that saw Giulio break away first from Giovanni da Udine (1487–1564), and then from Penni.34 It seems likely that Raphael would have sensed the impetuous energy of his young follower, and the need to restrain and control Giulio’s exuberance while he remained in Raphael’s workshop. Could the younger man’s impatience be suggested by his dramatic movement? Raphael might have sensed that he was holding Giulio back, and that he would have to let him strike out on his own (dressed in a symbolic new cloak), but that in the meantime he needed to weigh up and moderate the daring proposals that his pupil was increasingly able to lay before the master; and to restrain his pupil’s flights of fancy.
Could it also be that the agitated Giulio is showing something to Raphael and turning towards his master to solicit his opinion?35 This is what seems to be going on, and the Louvre portrait apparently dates from the last year of Raphael’s life, when his other great endeavour was The Transfiguration. The two artists might be in front of this picture, perhaps discussing the addition of a second narrative moment (the so-called ‘healing of the possessed boy’), and subsequent changes that included the introduction in the left foreground of a figure who reaches out with his left hand while turning his head around and looking back over his left shoulder.36 Giulio, who demonstrably had a role in the design and perhaps also in the execution of the picture, mirrors this action in the Paris portrait by pointing forward and turning around to his master.
Perhaps this is a step too far, but if the identifications of Raphael and Giulio are correct and the double portrait was painted in 1519–20, when the two of them were working on The Transfiguration, it would be highly appropriate for Raphael to paint the younger artist showing something to his master – while simultaneously demonstrating that Raphael’s workshop had many artists but only one hand; alluding in the pose to Giulio’s impetuous character; referring to Raphael’s quasi-paternal role; and also to the recognition that the mantle would pass from one generation to the next – sooner than perhaps either of them could have guessed.
Tom Henry is co-curator of ‘Late Raphael’ at the Musée du Louvre (until 14 January 2013), and author of The Life and Art of Luca Signorelli (Yale, 2012).
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