Raphael Exhibition – National Gallery
It was with much trepidation that I entered the Raphael exhibition at the National Gallery the other day. This is as big as it gets – there are loans from the Louvre, National Gallery of Art, Washington, the Prado Museum, Uffizi Museum and the Vatican Museum.
I've been a bit obsessive about Raphael since my teenage years and I once could – embarrassing confession coming up – name all his Madonnas in chronological order. Lots of fun at parties, was a young ISH.
The poster boy is a very captivating looking Bindo Altoviti – all spun gold hair and bee stung lips. You can't refuse his invitation to walk in and admire that face up close.
I was instantly struck by the minute scale of some of the paintings I knew so well. The Archangel Michael and St. George slaying various beasties were tiny jewels, all vivid colour and gold accents.
I knew all this work so well. The perfection of the Velata's hands, the trompe l’oeil of her index finger resting so casually on the frame. The softness of the faces, the pain of St. Nicholas's expression in the Ansidei Madonna.
The thing I took away from this encounter, and which I'll treasure always, are the imperfections, the changes of heart. The halo of the infant St. John the Baptist in the Garvagh Madonna, not quite the flawless shape it looks like from a distance. All the crossed out words in his sonnets and letters. 'Uh-oh, my mate Baldassare's shoulders turned out a bit bulky, let's fix that.' What a privilege to be so close as to see his humanity.
I'm as we speak making a pact with my devils to be nothing except loving and kind towards my own mistakes.