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New Testament subjects

New Testament subjects

The Transfiguration


Engraving | RCIN 850341

An engraving after 'The Transfiguration', a painting executed by Raphael (c.1518-1520) now in the Pinacoteca Vaticana, Rome (inv. no. 333). On watermarked paper. Trimmed within the platemark. See RCIN 850327 for a photograph of the painting.

As Ruland (1876) suggested, this print is probably reproducing a now lost drawing, rather than the final painting. Massari (see Bibliographic References) attributed this print to Nicolas Beatrizet.

Although there are no documents directly related to this commission, information about the genesis of 'The Transfiguration' can be gathered from contemporary correspondence about the 'Raising of Lazarus', a painting by Sebastiano del Piombo now in the National Gallery, London (inv, no. NG1). Both paintings were commissioned c. 1516-1517 by cardinal Giulio de Medici (the future Pope Clement VII) for the cathedral of Narbonne. Sebastiano started his painting earlier than Raphael and presented it to the Pope in 1519. According to Vasari, 'The Transfiguration' was Raphael's last painting as he died prematurely on 6 April 1520, by which time the painting was probably largely completed. The painting was never sent to Narbonne and from 1523 hung in the church of S. Pietro in Montorio, Rome until it was confiscated by the French in 1797 and taken to Paris. After the fall of Napoleon, the painting was brought back to Italy and initially displayed in the Borgia Apartment, Vatican.  

This painting depicts two different scenes: the Transfiguration of Christ on Mount Tabor (in the upper register) and the Healing of the possessed boy (in the lower register), which are based on two distinct passages from the Gospels of Matthew (17: 1-20), Mark (9: 2-29) and Luke (9: 28-43). Many drawings and 'modelli' for this painting survive, which are vital to understanding the genesis and finalisation of the pictorial programme.

Giorgio Vasari's opinion that 'The Transfiguration' was the last painting that Raphael executed without the aid of his workshop was not disputed until the mid-eighteenth century, when scholars suggested that, after the death of Raphael, Giulio Romano completed the painting and was responsible for lower right half of the picture. However, restoration of the painting in the 1970s confirmed Vasari's opinion and the painting is now generally considered to be by Raphael "except for a few small areas which were never completed" (see Bibliographic References for further discussion).

  • Added to the Prince Consort's Raphael Collection (c.1853-76)