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Raphael: A Passionate Life Hardcover – 1 Jul 2012
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"A brilliant and lyrical biography ... The masterful quality of Forcellino s account lies not only in the beauty of its language, translated impeccably from Italian into English, but in the seamlessness and self–assurance with which he himself works across northern Italy, its paintings, its politics."
"An excellent introduction to the workshop of the Renaissance artist, and to the careful and patient techniques employed in the making of timeless art works Forcellino has done a very creditable service in his re–examination of the life of an artist who, more than any other, embodied the spirit of the Italian Renaissance."
"Antonio Forcellino has now celebrated Raphael′s life and career by writing this ebullient book, elegantly translated by Lucinda Byatt ... [Forcellino] is ingenious and fastidious in describing Raphael′s works, and his book will give pleasure to those coming to them for the first time; it even highlights a few things connoisseurs may have missed."
"Written in a lively and entertaining style, ForcellinoÉ demonstrates his skills as a passionate and consummate storyteller revealing the life of a challenging and unique artist who introduced a new conception of Renaissance art combining sublimity and sensuality, within an Italian epoch of violence, wealth and eroticism."
European Journal of History
"A detailed biography that explains Raphael′s achievements during his short life, while also showing how his social skills and affable temperament helped him to advance his career This informative book is also a rich treasury of information about the artistic developments and techniques of the period."
Historical Novel Society
"Forcellino seeks to liberate his subject from later cultural and art–historical associations. Challenging post–Romantic conventions of the solitary genius, he presents Raphael as fully engaged with his society: a man whose eroticism and talent for friendship flowed naturally into his art ... Forcellino′s Raphael is a lover, not a fighter."
The Art Newspaper
"Written in his usual lively style, Forcellino′s new book combines fast–moving narrative, a vivid portrait of Raphael the man, and a perceptive analysis of his art."
Peter Burke, University of Cambridge
"The last century saw the development of the legend that depicts the life of the artist as one of torment and desperation: Raphael demolishes every trace of this romantic myth and demonstrates on the contrary that it is in fact complete happiness and the gratification of desires that can lead to the conquering of the highest peaks of creativity."
Corriere della Sera
"Beyond simply recounting the biographical journey, Antonio Forcellino also seamlessly incorporates analyses of Raphael s works in this lively study. Painter, architect, set designer: all facets of Raphael are discussed with the consummate art of the storyteller."
Tout pour les femmes
About the Author
Antonio Forcellino is one of the world s leading authorities on Michelangelo and an expert art historian and restorer. He has been involved in the restoration of numerous masterpieces, including Michelangelo s Moses.
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My only complaint is that there aren't enough illustrations in the book, you want to see every painting mentioned in the text while reading but they're not all here. If you have an iPad or iPhone you might like to know there's a free app available that contains hundreds more illustrations of Raphael drawing and paintings - just search for 'Raphael' in the App Store. It makes a nice pictorial accompaniment to an already highly enjoyable book.
The biographical information is sparse because there are limited sources of quality information, but Forcellino colours in the details of life as much as he can with word pictures of food, dress, manners and music. There is a good sketch of Roman life in the early 16th Century in this book, peopled with interesting characters, some evil, some beautiful, and some both. Raphael flits in and out of the narrative rather than being the main character, we learn as much about the Popes he painted for as we do about him.
It is his art which is the star in this book, there are wonderful, evocative and observant description for dozens of his works. We learn the context of the paintings, why they were done, what they are about, why Jesus has a red cloak or Mary Magdalene is facing out of the canvas. We are shown the effects of light, of the twist of a woman's waist or the invisible wind in the picture. I defy you to read Forcellino's description of Raphael's mistress La Fornarina and not see the naughtiness of her posture and the knowing look in her eyes.
This type of art history is out of fashion these days, because Forcelino focusses on each painting in depth and detail and gives us his educated opinion. More modern art historians like us to make our own decisions about the art. However I loved this book, I poured over the colour plates and eventually gave in and went to the National Gallery to look at a couple of them in real life. I looked at the Raphaels there with fresh eyes and a feeling that I knew the paintings much better, and I liked them more too. Pope Julius II had always looked like a tired old man before. Now I see the strength in his fist gripping the chair, the broad warrior's shoulders still held straight and the beard a symbol of a lost battle. I see why Raphael's choice of background was such a clever one.
There are some flaws inherent in a passionate book like this. Forcellino descends into hyperbole sometimes, describing Raphael as the greatest painter in the history of everywhere, or words to that effect, on several pages. He says things like "The shy young man [...] was now ready to embrace this new universe [...]ready to burn with even greater intensity.." I would love to see his source for that statement! Never mind, it adds colour and life to Raphael and it does not detract from the interesting story and page after page of art insights that I thoroughly enjoyed.
And I will have a bet with you. Before long you will look at one of the colour plates and think .."oh yes, it does do that! I didn't see that before". Which is a good effect for any art history book.
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