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Raphael, Pope Julius II

Key facts
Full title Portrait of Pope Julius II
Artist Raphael
Artist dates 1483 - 1520
Date made 1511
Medium and support Oil on poplar
Dimensions 108.7 × 81 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1824
Inventory number NG27
Location Room 12
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
Pope Julius II

This portrait of the careworn Pope Julius II (1443–1513) is usually dated to the one-and-a-half-year period during which he wore a beard. He grew it in 1510 as a token of mortification while recovering from a serious illness brought on by the loss of Bologna to the French, and vowed not to shave it off until French troops had been expelled from Italy, which happened in 1512. Julius was a great patron of the arts, commissioning Raphael to decorate the papal apartments in the Vatican and ordering the rebuilding of St Peter’s in Rome.

The two golden acorns on the Pope’s chair allude to his family name, della Rovere (rovere is Italian for oak). The portrait was displayed on 12 December 1513, after Julius’s death, in the Roman church of Santa Maria del Popolo. It was enormously influential and became the model for ecclesiastical portraiture over the following 200 years.

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