Faith, Reason, and the Politics of Beauty in The Stanza della Segnatura
A Lecture by Professor Elizabeth Lev, Dott. Ric.
The Unseen Raphael
A Lecture by Professor Eric Hansen, Ph.D.
The United Nations Grand Conference Hall
Wednesday, 10 May 2017
Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino (1483 – 1520), known as Raphael, was an Italian painter and architect of the High Renaissance. He was a giant in a time of artistic giants; together with Michelangelo (1475 – 1564) and Leonardo da Vinci (1452 – 1519), he forms the “Trinity of Great Masters” of that period.
Giorgio Vasari, the great biographer, describes Raphael’s life as falling into three phases and three styles: his formative years in Umbria tutored by Perugino; four years (1504-1508) in Florence where he was deeply influenced by Leonardo who lived in that great city from 1500 to 1506; his last twelve years spent in Rome where he achieved his lauded artistic maturity. Raphael’s mature style depicts the human figure in an idealized state of Neo-platonic grandeur and equanimity within the context of compositional clarity and formal grace, elements that give the overall work its much-admired serene and harmonious character.
It was while in Rome and working for two popes (Julius II and Leo X) that Raphael, and workshop, executed in fresco the largest and central works of his career in the Vatican Palace’s “Raphael Rooms,” including The School of Athens, The Parnasus, and The Disputa in the Stanza della Segnatura, The Mass at Bolsena and Deliverance of St. Peter in the Stanza de Eliodoro, and the three defining episodes in the life of the Emperor Constantine in The Constantine Room.
Professor Elizabeth Lev’s lecture will focus on the complex context of theological doctrines, papal politics, scientific ideas, and artistic sensibilities informing the commission, designs, and execution of the paintings in the Stanza della Segnatura.
Professor Lev is a highly regarded art historian who has authored scholarly articles, books, and scripts for documentaries about The Vatican Museums. Her forthcoming book, How Catholic Art Saved the Faith, is eagerly awaited.
Professor Eric Hansen’s lecture will focus on another room in the Vatican Palace designed and painted by Raphael. The Loggie is a long, thin gallery that was once open to a courtyard on one side and decorated with Roman-style grotesques. Though less well known than the “Stanze,” Professor Hansen argues for the importance of place of the Loggie in the Vatican Palace and its significance in the oeuvre of Raphael.
In addition to lecturing at various Catholic educational institutions, Professor Hansen has authored seven books on religious and cultural history; his forthcoming volume will detail the history and design of Catholic cathedrals in the United States.
Stanza della Segnatura
The Vatican Palace
Photo: The Vatican Museums