Wednesday, March 4, 2015


Stanza di Eliodoro
It was destined to private audiences of the pope

The program is political and aims to document, in different historical moments, from the Old Testament to medieval times, the miraculous protection given by God to the Church, threatened in its faith (Mass of Bolsena), in the person of the pontiff (Liberation of St. Peter), in its territory (Encounter of Leo the Great with Attila) and in its assets (Expulsion of Heliodorus from the Temple)

The subjects of the paintings were also chosen to express the political program of Julius II Della Rovere (1503/13), aimed to restore the threatened temporal power of the papacy and aimed at freeing Italy, at that time occupied by the French

In the grotesque and in the arcades some parts are attributed to Luca Signorelli, Bramantino, Lorenzo Lotto and Cesare da Sesto (1477/1523)

Two scenes in monochrome “Wheat harvest” and “Grape harvest” painted in 1702/03 by Carlo Maratta (1625/1713)


Painted by Guillaume de Marcillat (about 1469/1529) after Raphael's design. The four scenes take up the themes of the walls below with relevant biblical stories


Great masterpieces by Raffaello Sanzio (Raphael) (1483/1520) painted in the years 1512/14 with his assistants:

“Leo the Great stops the invasion of Attila” with the help of Giulio Romano and Giovanni Francesco Penni

On the vault “History of Noah” as a reminder that God always saves the righteous

Leo X Medici (1513/21) appears twice, both as Pope and as cardinal, since after the death of Julius II in 1513 the portrait was replaced with that of the new pope

“What Raphael still had not dared in the Expulsion of Heliodorus, a complete violation of the symmetry, was obtained with the conditions imposed by the subject in the fresco with Leo the Great stopping the invasion of Attila. The meeting takes place in the open field, so there was no support from central architecture. Even that unnatural 'tectonic' quality of the landscape was abandoned, which in Parnassus had been caused by the need to adapt the fresco to a wall with a window. In the part with figures the contrast of the two halves of the scene is reminiscent of the fresco of Heliodorus; however the group of the pope and his retinue, that there appeared only as an aid for the composition, is entered here in the dramatic action and has thus lost the appearance of idle immobility” (Hermann Voss)

On the vault “Sacrifice of Isaac” example of obedience and faith

The miracle of Bolsena, according to tradition, occurred in 1263 in the town in the province of Viterbo: while a priest was celebrating Mass, the consecrated wafer would have bled
The miracle was officially recognized by the Catholic Church and this event gave rise to the feast of Corpus Christi

In the painting we see Julius II who assists at Mass in memory of his visit in 1506 in Orvieto, where the Sacred Body is preserved, the altar cloth stained with blood

In the face of the only woman dressed in black on the left some scholars think to recognize the daughter of Julius II, Felice Della Rovere, one of the most influential women of the Renaissance, also thanks to her marriage to Gian Giordano Orsini

“If the fresco of Heliodorus inaugurated that chiaroscuro that strongly dominates and subordinates the individual shades of color to the whole, to the space, the Mass of Bolsena is surprising just because of the harmonic fullness of color and its beauty. Raphael, who in his paintings on wood makes you feel mostly the lack of taste for the real, sensual  charm of colors, in this fresco exploits the special beauty of the fresco technique like few other artists” (Hermann Voss)

“Another element that arouses astonishment in the art of Raphael, is, for example, in the Room of Heliodorus, the use of light and the study of Venetian painting. Scenes such as the Mass of Bolsena or the Liberation of St. Peter denote no doubt the study of Venetian painting, but Raphael reinterprets everything, everything merges into a personal style with a unique technique” (Federico Zeri)

“Expulsion of Heliodorus” with the help of Giulio Romano and Giovanni Ricamatore aka Giovanni da Udine (1487/1564)

On the vault “Burning Bush” representing the inviolability of Church property

The story is taken from the Book of Maccabees in the Bible: Heliodorus of Antioch was a minister of King Seleucus IV of Syria in charge of desecrating the Temple of Jerusalem
Onias the priest prays to God at the center of the scene and then a divine messenger on horseback appears, with two assistants on foot, or half-flying, sending off and beating up Heliodorus and his thugs to the right of the scene

The guy with the beard who holds the chair of Julius II on the right is considered a self-portrait by Raphael

Under the painting graffito by a Landsknecht, a German mercenary soldier in 1527 during the Sack of Rome: V. K. Imp. - Got hab dy sela Borbons = vivat Karolus Imperator - God has the soul of the Bourbon

“The space created by the deep and dark nave traversed by gold flashes creates a strong illusion of breaching of the wall, which draws the viewer in the action and arouses in him an intense feeling of immediacy. The two distinct lines in the side scenes create violent dynamic tensions in the composition, enhanced by dramatic and agitated movements of the figures, effectively rendering the flagrancy of the divine intervention” (Carlo Bertelli, Giuliano Briganti, Antonio Giuliano)

“Only in the Room of Heliodorus Raphael's tension becomes fully understandable: if the Expulsion of Heliodorus preserves the principle of symmetry in architecture at least, the very monumentality of the figures, however, smothers the architectural element, and the painting style strips it of its rigidity to the point that it gives an impression of asymmetry. While in the two main frescoes of the first room, the Dispute and the School of Athens, the movement presses from both sides in equal measure towards the center of the scene, in the fresco of Heliodorus the latter remains completely empty. The dramatic content focuses instead on the right half of the scene, in a group which for the energy of the movement and the passion of the expression does not seem to belong to the first Raphael. The left half restores the balance with its extreme calm” (Hermann Voss)

“Liberation of St. Peter” with the help of Giulio Romano

On the vault “Jacob's Ladder” prefiguration of the founding of the Church

The Liberation of St. Peter is one of the most striking paintings in the history of art

“The extraordinary emotional power of this work is mainly due to the unusual treatment of light that becomes the protagonist in the image. For each moment of the action corresponds a different characterization of light sources so intensely expressive to contrast with the darkness of the cell and of the night and, at the same time, to mark the unity of the composition without no longer any need of supporting geometric patterns” (Carlo Bertelli, Giuliano Briganti, Antonio Giuliano)

“Even more daring than the Mass of Bolsena and apparently even richer in effects is the next work, the Liberation of St. Peter, in which the chiaroscuro is used as the basis of its conception, in the joint action of the three different types of lighting: natural light (moonlight), artificial light (torches) and supernatural light (glory of the angel). On the other hand this deep work, which moves in a particular way beyond the boundaries of time, could be considered more as an absolutely personal inspiration of the genius of Raphael that as a model rich in influence for the following period” (Hermann Voss)

Under the fresco, between the caryatids there is the word Glovis connected to the Medici family: the luck of Giuliano de' Medici, the pope's brother, bad for so many years, had begun to change, to turn positive

The mysterious word Glovis read backwards without the last letter is in fact si volge which in Italian means it is turning

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