A 500-year-old mystery at the Vatican has just been solved. Two paintings by Renaissance master Raphael were discovered during the cleaning and restoration of a room inside the Vatican Museums.
Experts believe they are his last works before an early death, around the age of 37, in 1520: “It’s an amazing feeling,” said the Vatican’s chief restorer for the project, Fabio Piacentini.
“Knowing these were probably the last things he painted, you almost feel the real presence of the maestro.”
The two female figures, one depicting Justice and the other Friendship, were painted by Raphael around the year 1519, but he died before he could finish the rest of the room. After his death, other artists finished the wall and Raphael’s two paintings were forgotten.
In 1508, Raphael was commissioned by Pope Julius II to paint the his private apartments. The artist completed three rooms, known today as the “Raphael rooms,” with famous frescoes like the School of Athens.
He then began plans for the fourth room, the largest in the apartment, a banquet hall called the Hall of Constantine. His plan was to paint the room using oil, rather than the traditional fresco technique.
An ancient book from 1550 by Giorgio Vasari, “Lives of the most excellent painters, sculptors and architects,” attests that Raphael began work on two figures in a new experiment with oil. That clue was the key to the discovery. When restorers began to clean the walls of the Hall of Constantine in 2017, they realized two female figures were painted in oil, while the rest of the room was painted using the fresco technique.
Ultra-violet and infrared photos confirmed scholars suspicions: these two paintings were not like the rest, the oil painting clearly showing through in the advanced technology. To the expert eye, it was clearly Raphael for other reasons as well.
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SOURCE: CNN, Delia Gallagher