19.3.14

Raphael: The Vatican Loggia


The loggia, or colonnaded porch, on the second story of the Apostolic Palace is one of the Vatican’s most remarkable art treasures; its decoration, designed by Raphael (1483—1520) and executed by his workshop in 1517- 1519, epitomizes the spirit of the Italian Renaissance in its synthesis of Christian and classical themes. The thirteen square vaults of Raphael’s loggia each contain four frescoes of scenes from the Bible, from the Creation to the Last Supper. Meanwhile, the plasterwork of the other architectural elements is decorated with "grotesques"—fanciful arabesques enlivened with a wide variety of human and animal figures—modeled after ancient Roman wall paintings. [...] the grotesque ornamental style elaborated by Raphael has been imitated as far afield as the corridors of the United States Capitol, and the Bible scenes served as influential models for popular prints.[1]

Raphael Sanzio and Giovanni da Udine
Detail from Pilaster IX, with acanthus foliage populated by animals, and flanking half-pilasters, with grotesque imagery.
fresco, 1515-19
Vatican Loggia, Apostolic Palace, Rome.[2]

The Raphael Loggia consists of numerous vaults, arches and pilasters forming a gallery sixty-five meters long and four meters wide. Its construction was begun by architect and painter Donato Bramante in 1512, under Pope Julius II and was completed by Raphael under the reign of Leo X. Raphael began work on the frescoes in 1517.

Raphael Sanzio and Giovanni da Udine
Pilaster with Grotesques, fresco, 1515-19
Loggie, Apostolic Palace, Rome
Colored engraving by Volpato & Ottaviani, 1772-77

Grotesque Motifs

Raphael and Da Udine
Grotesques, 1515-19
Detail from engraving by Volpato & Ottaviani (after drawings by Camporesi & Savorelli Teseo); Le Loggie di Rafaele nel Vaticano, Rome, 1772-77.

Half-Figure
From a set of gouache colored engravings (Le Loggie di Rafaele nel Vaticano, 3 vols., Rome, 1772-77).[3]

Raphael and Giovanni da Udine, Grotteschi (Grotesques, candelabrum arrangement), fresco, 1515-19. Pilaster detail. Papal Loggias, Vatican.[4]

Raphael and Giovanni da Udine, Grotteschi (Grotesques, candelabrum arrangement), fresco, 1515. Pilaster detail. Papal Loggias, Vatican

Rafael, Grotesque motif, 1515-19
Detail from engraving by Volpato & Ottaviani (after drawings by Camporesi & Savorelli Teseo); Le Loggie di Rafaele nel Vaticano, Rome, 1772-77.

Notes
1. Nicole Dacos, The Loggia of Raphael: A Vatican Art Treasure, Abbeville, 2008.
2. Ibid., p. 43, pl. 19.
3. Photograph by Alan Carroll, 2012 (Surface Fragments and photo-album). Engraving is by Volpato & Ottaviani (after drawings by Camporesi & Savorelli Teseo).
4. Photograph by Alessandro Vasari, c. 1880-90 (Istituto Nazionale della Grafica).

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