Perugino and Raphael, the Marriage of the Virgin. A dialogue between the master and the pupil
The Perugino’s large altarpiece alongside his pupil Raphael’s masterpiece, a unique comparison in the history of art.
The exhibition is the result of an understanding between the museums that hold the two versions of the Marriage of the Virgin. The Musée des Beaux-Arts in Caen has agreed to lend Perugino’s large altarpiece, which will be returning to Italy for the first time in over two hundred years, in exchange for Brera’s Caravaggio masterpiece depicting the Supper at Emmaus (from November 2015 to January 2016).
When Pietro Vanucci, known as Perugino, painted his version of the Marriage of the Virgin, he ran the most prestigious artist’s workshop in Italy; his reputation rested primarily on the leading role that he had played in the decoration of the middle register in the Sistine Chapel some twenty years earlier. His renown attracted numerous painters to his workshop, including young Raphael Sanzio, the son of painter Giovanni Santi (as Vasari informs us). Taking his inspiration from Perugino’s Marriage, the still extremely young Raphael produced his own mesmerising version of the scene, an event which also marked the end of his apprenticeship and his move to Florence.
Perugino’s altarpiece, commissioned by the Confraternita di San Giuseppe for the Chapel of the Sacred Ring in the cathedral of San Lorenzo in Perugia, was painted between 1499 and 1504 and displayed alongside the relic of the Virgin Mary’s “sacred ring”, while Raphael painted his version in 1504 for the chapel of St. Joseph in the church of San Francesco in Città di Castello, a city situated some sixty kilometres away.
Perugino’s composition echoes his famous fresco of the Delivery of the Keys in the Sistine Chapel, though rearranged to cater for an altarpiece’s vertical dimension. The painting once again proposes a setting in a city square, an imposing religious building with a circular plan in the background and a central vanishing point, while the figures grouped below the line of the horizon in the foreground are shown in close proximity to each other.
Raphael offers us what is almost a mirror image of his master’s composition, yet he overcomes the difference in planes and the apparent flatness of Perugino’s painting, imparting a three-dimensional feel to the composition by distributing the same number of figures more freely in his space and also forging an integral visual link with the raised temple.
Dialogue edited by: Emanuela Daffra, Cristina Quattrini, Giovanni Agosti