No, I’m not suggesting that Raphael and his babbo ever visited my country. But their paintings and drawings have taken up permanent residence here.
Recently and coincidentally I saw a drawing by Santi and a small painting by Raphael in unusual contexts. I was fortunate enough to see the drawing in Windsor Castle, one of the Queen’s residences. I never hoped to see it, because the Queen has a vast collection of Old Master drawings. Little did I think that this relatively insignificant (though not to me) artist would ever be on show. But there his drawing was.
It is deeply moving to see these drawings and feel so close to the artist; this work was by his hand and no other. If you believe the creative process to be divinely inspired, it is like seeing the hand of God at work. And very often artists who produce rather bland all-purpose paintings (my good fellow-Corinaldese, Claudio Ridolfi, for example) create lively and sophisticated drawings.
I’ve also been to the exhibition “Painters’ Paintings” at the National Gallery. It was quite a revelation to me. The National Gallery often bought up paintings at auctions of famous painters’ collections; hence many of their pictures are actually from such collections.
You can see his father’s influence in this early Raphael. I first saw it the NG’s excellent exhibition “Raphael from Urbino to Rome” in 2004, which was seminal for me and, together with a similar exhibition “Raphael and Urbino”in Urbino in 2009, first got me on to “dear old Mr Santi”, as Kenneth Clark called him in his (KC’s) book, Civilisation. (BTW, some friends told us that the National Gallery used to say that Raphael was born in Umbria, until they got an official complaint from the president of the Marche region.)
The painting belonged to Sir Thomas Lawrence (1769-1830), who mainly collected Old Master drawings rather than paintings, partly because they were cheaper. However, Raphael was an exception. The exhibition catalogue quotes a letter to his art agent: “In drawings I still ask for the preference – in pictures I do not expect it, nor can I afford to buy them, unless you meet with another Raphael, a case which would justify exertion.” (Anne Robbins et al: Painters’ Paintings.London, National Gallery Company, 2016.)
The exhibition is on till 4 September 2016. It includes paintings from the collections of artists from Lucian Freud to van Dyck, and wasn’t very crowded. Do go if you can.