News & Events

An Evening With Raphael

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.

Photo Credit

Raphael (1483-1520)

Stanza della Segnatura

The Vatican Palace

Photo:  The Vatican Museums

Menorah Exhibition – Rome: May 2017


Gallery: Constantine Room

Gallery: Bernini Angels


Video: An Evening with Raphael

10 May 2017 – Featuring presentations by experts and professors Elizabeth Lev and Eric Hansen, Side Event organized by the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations.

Bernini His Life & His Rome

On Wednesday, November 9, 2016 at 6pm, The New York Chapter was invited to hear renowned author and Boston College professor, Franco Mormando, Ph.D. speak at The Salmagundi Club in the Main Gallery. The club is located at  47 Fifth Avenue New York, NY 10003. Dr. Mormando’s presentation will be based on his recent book, Bernini: His Life and His Rome.


Written by Alessandra Rodolfo & Translated by Ami Badami

Long and arduous is the history of the Chair of St. Peter. In 1658, Pope Alexander VII, always turning his attention to Divine Worship and the greater glory of the saints, decided to give the Chair of St. Peter a more worthy residence. The original Chair, according to medieval tradition, was where Saint Peter sat as the first Bishop of Rome and first Pope to instruct the early Christians. It is a venerated wood and ivory relic, and a gift from the Holy Roman Emperor Charles the Bald to Pope John VII in 875. Years later, Pope Alexander VII communicated his intentions of homage and
devotion to his most favorite sculptor Giovanni Lorenzo _ Bernini. The artist at once set out on paper to draft ideas for a project that indubitably would, for its supreme beauty and importance, be undeniably worthy of the “sublime intentions” of the Holy Pontiff.


This was indeed the case. In the apse of St. Peter’s Basilica, Bernini’s monumental magnum opus was born, masterfully executed in marble, gilded stucco and bronze, and would be known through the ages as the Chair of St. Peter. Bernini actually invented a type of grandiose reliquary for the chair a veritable theatrical machine in which the four Doctors of the Church, larger than life, support a bronze chair (encapsulating the original wooden relic) that miraculously rises towards angelic hosts and the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove. The preparatory models of the angels and the heads of Saints Athanasius and John Chrysostom are already restored, thanks the generous contributions of the New York Chapter and Mrs. Romanelli of the Patrons of the Arts. The angel models actually vary in size (there are two larger and two smaller), as they correspond to two various stages of design elaboration. These clay and straw models used for the fusion of the bronze figures of the Chair are precious witnesses of the evolution of the overall work. They testify to how the immense undertaking was transformed over the course of a decade during which Bernini continuously labored with his grand project. The work, in fact, unfolded with great difficulty. At first, Bernini had designed the Altar of the Chair much smaller with respect to the current design. The Altar visible today in St. Peter’s is about 30 meters high – over twice the size of the original project. The first stage is reflected in the models of the two smaller angels, which were eventually rejected since they no longer aligned within the new grandiose structure. The source of this change stems from when, in 1658-1660, Bernini made a life-sized model of the altar in wood and plaster to fit into the apse of St. Peter’s in order to verify the project’s proportions.


The angels set against this model were altogether too small. Years later, Lyon Pascoli in his book “Lives”, recalls the episode when Bernini met with a fellow painter friend, Andrea Sacchi. Pascoli writes, “…they entered the church, and little by little came closer to the cross. Noticing that Andrea had still not yet discovered the Chair, Bernini continued to walk so as to lead his friend closer to see it. Andrea, however, remained in his place and said, ‘Here, Mr. Bernini, is the place from where I would like to see, and where one should be able to see the work, and where I long for it to come into view.’ Since this was the point of the visit, Bernini considered and reconsidered Andrea’s words while the latter, still without a quiver of movement or one step forward, added that the three statues from that vantage point should be at least a good hand’s width larger. Leaving the church without anything more to say, Andrea entered his carriage to depart….Meanwhile, the great Bernini who already had known all this himself, angrily set off to recreate his figures”. (L. Pascoli, “Lives”, 1730).


It was like this, then, and with the help of sculptors Ercole Ferrata and Antonio Raggi, that Bernini decided to enlarge the monument, for which he made a second version of the angels and the heads of Saints Athanasius and John Chrysostom, now restored. The second version of the angels, much larger and proportional to the whole of the altar, was used for the bronze casting. Once the size was clarified, undertaking the Chair’s execution was an event filled with suffering. Bernini persevered despite King Louis XIV ‘s mandate for him to remain in France. The artist, so far away from Rome, would sometimes have tears welling up in his eyes when thinking about the work. The work was finally finished in 1666. In a solemn procession, the work was carried in to be placed in the Bernini masterpiece. The hailed artist wrote to his friend in Chantelou, France, “It is by the grace of God that I finished the Chair.”

Model for an Altar Angel of the Blessed sacrament in saint Peter’s Basilica

Already in 1629 Pope Urban VIII had commissioned Bernini to design an altar in St. Peter’s Basilica dedicated to the most Blessed Sacrament. The Holy Pontiff never had, however, the joy of seeing the work completed. The long design phase that included several revisions ended only in 1673 under the papacy of Pope Clement X, culminating in an altar design in which the tabernacle is flanked on either side by two angels, adoring, and on bended knee. The kneeling angel, now restored, is the model for the bronze casting, and is located on the right of the tabernacle. The angel was made from clay and straw by Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini with the help of Giovanni Rinaldi in 1673.



The restoration work began with a preliminary dust removal, which clearly showed that in numerous places parts of the plaster were missing, and had been subject to past efforts to fill and reconstruct them. In turn, they were cleverly disguised with coloured paints stretching over the original surfaces. A notable type of dust particulate present on the work made it evident that the constitutive elements of the work (i.e wood and straw) were at one point compromised by insect infestation, clearly necessitating the need for anoxic disinfestation treatment. The deposits of dust and layer of dirt that greyed the surfaces were removed by special gum erasers varying in their texture and composition. Varnishes and other invasive substances were eliminated with solvent packs in order to not leave any marks or stains on the clay. This substance was also applied in the areas where the iron structural elements were corroded in order to slow down further degradation.

At the end of revitalizing most of the surfaces from the time when the angels were originally executed, it was necessary to then remove the most recent “refurbishing” interventions that were made. These attempts to consolidate the piece with plaster actually contributed in part to the piece’s overall degradation. The works were also pieced back together. The consolidation efforts, mainly adhesions and structural reconstructions, were executed using an impasto with a cellulite base specifically formulated for this project. Its characteristic ease in application and workability, lightness, maximum reversibility, and, most importantly, its lack of aqueous or greasy solvents rendered this impasto perfect for the job. The visible surfaces of these reconstructions were successfully camouflaged by using watercolor paints applied with a stippling technique. The result: a perceptibly homogenous and intact piece.

Please see original link to article on here.

Relevant Radio & The Patrons of the Arts


As a one-hour interview program centered on current events, A Closer Look™ with Sheila Liaugminas features notable experts, newsmakers, elected officials, scholars and clergy. By applying her many gifts and decades of experience in print and broadcast journalism, Sheila and her guests put the news of the day into sharp focus from a uniquely Catholic perspective.

Ms. Liaugminas spoke with Fr. Daniel Hennessy, The International Director of the Patrons of the Arts, Romina Cometti, The Vatican Museums Restoration Project Manager, and Fr. George W. Rutler, The Delegate of the Cardinal to The New York Chapter.

In this one hour interview segment, Ms. Liaugminas engaged in a dialogue with her guests about the importance of The Vatican Museums collection and the relevance of The Patrons of the Arts in the Vatican Museums as benevolent donors of the museums restoration projects.  Ms. Cometti and Fr. Hennessy shared a newly completed restoration project, The Bernini Angels, sponsored by The New York Chapter providing an example of The Vatican Museums restoration needs.

Ms. Liaugminas also engaged in conversation about the Arts as ‘a universal language’,  with Fr. George W. Rutler speaking on ‘beauty, goodness and truth’ in our world today.

To listen The Patrons of the Arts in the Vatican Museums feature on  A Closer Look™ with Sheila Liaugminas please click the link provided below: 

The Life of A Swiss Guard- October 18th, 2016

On Tuesday, October 18, 2016 The Patrons of the Arts in the Vatican Museums in conjunction with The Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations and Solares Federazione delle Arti hosted an evening at The United Nations Headquarters ECOSOC Hall.

The New York Patrons, the International Patrons, and esteemed guests gathered in the ECOSOC Hall to see the New York City premiere of The World’s Smallest Army directed by Gianfranco Pannone. The film transports viewers inside the Vatican and into the lives of the men serving in the Pontifical Swiss Guard-the famously clad army founded in 1506 to protect the Pope. The film documents a year in the life of two new recruits as they took up service together in the eternal city. Pannone’s documentary illuminates how the modern day Pontifical Swiss Guard bridges 500 year-old traditions with contemporary culture, specifically serving a Pope who regularly interacts with the people and seeks to bring the Christian faith to the modern world.

In addition to the film, lining the walls of the ECOSOC Hall were six photographs donated by the Patrons of the Arts in the Vatican Museums- New York Chapter for the evening. The images previewed the photographic exhibition Life of A Swiss Guard-A Private View a contemporary exhibition curated by Romina Cometti, The Patrons Office at The Vatican Museums. The full exhibition was recently displayed at The Vatican Museums in March, and will travel the United States in its entirety beginning in California on November 27, 2016.

The evening ended with a short panel discussion and audience Q & A. The discussion was led by  Former Captain of the Pontifical Swiss Guard, Frowin Bachmann, Director of the Patrons of the Arts in the Vatican Museums,Fr. Daniel Hennessy, Director of The World’s Smallest Army, Gianfranco Pannone, and Director of The Permeant Observer Mission of the Holy See, Fr. Landry.





Caravaggio: Man & Mystery

On Tuesday, October 4, 2016, The Patrons of the Arts in the Vatican Museums- New York Chapter had the distinct pleasure of hearing Charles Scribner III, Ph.D. speak on Caravaggio. The lecture was located in The Metropolitan Club’s Library – a beautiful setting for a lecture that filled the entire room.

 As The New York Chapter learned from the lecture, Caravaggio was a figure of great controversy and a pioneer of the Baroque, but Caravaggio was also a wanted man nearing the end of his life. Caravaggio was forced to flee Rome by 1606, leaving behind a collection of highly criticized yet equally admired artwork. His naturally rendered figures and consistent use of tenebrism developed a new perception of the well-known biblical scenes characteristic of the Renaissance. In his lecture, Dr. Scribner highlighted many of Caravaggio’s notable works including: The Entombment of Christ (1603), The Calling of St. Matthew (1599-1600), and The Conversion of St. Paul on His Way to Damascus (1601).