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The National Gallery 2020 autumn exhibition

The Credit Suisse Exhibition: Raphael

Issued September 2019

3 October 2020 – 24 January 2021
North Galleries
Admission charge

A painter, draughtsman, architect, archaeologist, and poet who captured in his art the human and the divine, love, friendship, learning, and power, who gave us quintessential images of community and civilisation: Raphael’s life was short, his work prolific, and his legacy immortal.

In the year that marks the 500th anniversary of Raphael’s death, the National Gallery will present one of the first-ever exhibitions to explore the complete career of this giant of the Italian Renaissance.

In his brief career, spanning just two decades, Raffaello Santi (1483–1520) shaped the course of Western culture like few artists before or since. This exhibition will examine not just his celebrated paintings and drawings - but also his not so widely known work in architecture, archaeology, poetry, and design for sculpture, tapestry, prints, and the applied arts. The aim is to do something no previous Raphael exhibition has ever done - explore every aspect of his multimedia activity.

The Credit Suisse Exhibition: Raphael will demonstrate why Raphael plays such a pivotal role in the history of Western art, and seek to understand why his work remains relevant to us today. There will be more than ninety exhibits, with focus on autograph works and those in media he did not practice himself but for which he provided designs.

Loans from across his entire career – many of them unprecedented – will be travelling to London from around the world, to join 10 works from the National Gallery’s outstanding collection of Raphaels. Lenders will include the Louvre, Musei Vaticani, Galleria degli Uffizi, National Gallery of Art (Washington DC), and the Museo Nacional del Prado.

Work and activities that cannot be represented by original exhibits – such as the monumental frescoed rooms in the Vatican Palace, known as the Stanze of Raphael – will be presented in other innovative ways.


For centuries Raphael has been recognised as the supreme High Renaissance painter, capturing visually our idea and ideals of the Renaissance.

Though he died at 37, Raphael's example as a paragon of Classicism dominated the academic tradition of European painting until the mid-19th century.

Raphael (Raffaello Santi) was born in Urbino where his father, Giovanni Santi, was court painter. He almost certainly began his training there and must have known works by Mantegna, Uccello, and Piero della Francesca from an early age. His earliest paintings were also greatly influenced by Perugino. From 1500 - when he was an independent master - to 1508 he worked throughout central Italy, particularly Florence, where he became a noted portraitist and painter of madonnas.

In 1508, at the age of 25, he was called to the court of Pope Julius II to help with the redecoration of the papal apartments. In Rome he evolved as a portraitist, and became one of the greatest of all history painters. He remained in Rome for the rest of his life and in 1514, on the death of Bramante, he was appointed architect in charge of St Peter's.


Raphael, Saint Catherine of Alexandria, about 1507 © The National Gallery, London
Raphael, 'Study for the Head of an Apostle in the Transfiguration' © Private Collection
Pieter Coecke van Aelst, 'Vision of Ezekiel', about 1521 © Museo Nacional de Artes Decorativas. Madrid

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