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  • Writer's pictureJoan Fernandez

Raphael, Painter in Rome

By Stephanie Storey

Smoldering rivalry drives the pace

It’s embarrassing but I never realized until now that when my art history classes—and later travels to Rome—included gazing at a Raphael painting, I made a subconscious assumption that the perfect cherubic portrait in his artwork must be a mirror of the artist himself. Wholesome, pure, noble, pink-cheeked.

So when I pulled this book RAPHAEL, PAINTER IN ROME, from my TBR pile, I was stunned, then captivated by the Raphael who emerged from the page. He’s a womanizer. He’s disheveled. He’s nimble within Vatican politics. Not the picture of perky perfection I’d imagined. But most enlightening of all—here is a man who burns with the drive to be better than his contemporary, Michelangelo. Not just better, but the GREATEST ARTIST IN HISTORY.

The thing is it’s not all bravado; Raphael has the talent to challenge Michelangelo. So with this smoldering rivalry driving the story’s pace, sixteenth-century Rome comes to life with vivid city descriptions, buildings (I know as ruins today), and fully fleshed-out characters, like the remarkable Felice della Rovere and Margherita Luti (who are only footnotes in most history books). The story is wonderfully entertaining and descriptive. Best of all, Storey has added links to the artwork cited in the narrative in the digital version. It was easy to click to see the paintings as they’re referenced and, over the course of the book, I came to appreciate Raphael’s work even more. Not just for art history buffs, this book is a satisfying, illuminating read.

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