Raphael Revelations: Restorer Paolo Violini’ discoveries in the Raphael Rooms

A recent study of the frescos by Renaissance master Raphael in the Vatican’s Stanze di Raffaello have revealed a great deal about the artist’s technical progress and maturation in this period.  In an article with Artemagazine, Paolo Violini, the Vatican Museums’ fresco restoration specialist, describes how the conservation of the Stanza di Eliodoro revealed evidence of Raphael’s evolution as a painter.  From 1508, when the artist began work on the Stanza della Segnatura, to 1514, when he completed the Stanza di Eliodoro, Raphael completely transformed his painting style. At the beginning of Raphael’s career, the influence of Perugino—picked up during his early training as the master’s apprentice in Umbria and Tuscany— was very apparent in his work.  Later on in his illustrious career, however, Raphael began to incorporate different techniques into his work as he was influenced by his contemporaries in Rome. Violini describes the artist’s transformation: “In addition to an increased attention to light, reflections, and prismatic color, Raphael begins to use intense explosions of color, which free his paintings from the traditional prescription of drawing and engraving. It gives a increasingly fluid picture, almost impressionistic.” It is incredible to know that our restoration projects sponsor not only the rejuvenation of important masterworks but also the uncovering of new scholarship in the field of Art History and fresh perspectives on methods, techniques, and influence of master artists. Now that Violini, thanks to these Patrons-sponsored restorations, has uncovered the material evidence of Raphael’s stylistic transformation, we look forward to future scholarship piecing together the story of this environment of artistic influence in the Vatican during the Renaissance. Who knows what another upcoming restoration, for example, the final Raphael Stanza to be restored— the artist’s final masterpiece, the Room of Constantine— might uncover about this fascinating topic!