Raphael at Court, but Not Altogether of It

Charles Burroughs


Raphael’s capacity to thrive at court stands out in an age of manners and reflections on manners. His reputation as a perfect courtier has been burnished by his association with Baldassare Castiglione, whose evocation of “the perfect courtier” was one of the most influential books of the Cinquecento and whose portrait by Raphael seems to embody the qualities outlined by Castiglione himself. Castiglione’s Book of the Courtier may represent a shift to self-conscious reflexivity in a long history of positive and negative writings on courts and courtiers. Nevertheless, it emerged in a culture used to visual representations of court life, from images of Mary as Queen of Heaven to more secular subjects, such as Mantegna’s Camera degli Sposi or Signorelli’s Court of Pan. In the Stanza della Segnatura, Raphael painted the court of Apollo on Parnassus with attendant beautiful women and talented and eloquent men (also women), as in Castiglione’s ideal court. Yet in the Stanza, there are indications of Raphael’s capacity for sly and witty subversion of the overarching epideictic purpose; in this, too, perhaps, he was a perfect courtier.

Parole chiave

Stanze; Raphael; Andrea Mantegna; Baldassare Castiglione; Apollo; Parnassus

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.15162/2240-760X/1864


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