To commemorate the 500th anniversary of the death of Renaissance master, Raphael, a museum in Rome has amassed the greatest ever collection of his work in one place. Exhibits at Raffaello: 1520-1483 in Rome’s Scuderie del Quirinale include loans from Paris’ Louvre, Madrid’s Museo del Prado, London’s National Gallery and Florence’s Uffizi. There’s even a life-sized reproduction of Raphael’s tomb copied from the nearby Pantheon.

Unfortunately, when Italy went into lockdown on 8 March, the exhibition, which had pre-sold 70,000 tickets, was forced to close after just three days in operation. 

As consolation, you can now see the highlights online in a 13-minute video uploaded to the Quirinale website. The film takes viewers on a virtual journey through eleven eerily deserted rooms accompanied by a fascinating commentary in English and Italian. A dozen shorter videos (in Italian only) allow you to study some of the works in more detail.

Raphael was one of the Holy Trinity of Renaissance artists. In contrast to his contemporaries, Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo, his life was comparatively short. He died on his birthday on 6 April, 1520 after 37 years of fertile artistic activity. The Quirinale exhibition, which brings together over 120 pieces by the artist, was set to be one of Italy’s cultural highlights in 2020. Cataloguing Raphael’s life in reverse from his Rome years, via a spell in Florence, back to his roots in Umbria, it contains paintings, letters, tapestries and sketches. Look out for a revealing self-portrait on loan from the Louvre and the painter’s recently restored depiction of Pope Leo X with two cardinals. The latter work was long considered too valuable to move and was lent, amid much controversy, by Florence’s Uffizi in February causing the gallery’s scientific committee to collectively resign in protest.

The Quirinale show is the crown jewel of several Raphael celebrations planned around the world this year and was originally due to run until early June. If it whets your appetite for more Renaissance musings, consider taking a virtual 360º tour of the Raphael rooms in Rome’s famous Vatican Museums, host to the artist’s magnum opus, The School of Athens. 

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