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Raphael, Portrait of Pope Julius II

Video transcript

and here we have julius ii painted by raphael julius ii the great patron of the high renaissance and it's thanks to julius that we have oh gosh so many things the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel the Basilica st. Peter's raw files frescoes in the stands a he was also a warrior he financed that extraordinary building campaign through his military campaigns and through some excesses in fact ultimately in the political realm you know it will be Luther that responds against some of the excesses of the church under this Pope that will actually spark the Reformation yeah it's hard for us to imagine a pope leading armies and yet that is that's certainly what Julius did but look at the way that he's represented you know he is a monarch he sits on a throne he wields power that is both spiritual and that is political absolutely this time the papacy claimed political right to various lands in Italy and it actually wasn't until the 20th century that the papacy the Vatican relinquished those rights and in fact the way that the National Gallery in London dates this painting is because of the beard that he wears which he wore in mourning for the city of Bologna which he had lost in battle the other issue is the way in which economic power and spiritual power are linked I mean look at the size of the gems in the rings that he wears and look at the crispness and the clarity with which those jewels are rendered compare them to the softness of the edging of the fur of his cloak and of the cap that he wears and I'm especially taken by the flowing crisp lightness of the crinkles of the yes exactly of the crinkles of that undergarment I think what's most striking and what's most I think effective about this portrait is the psychology and the humanity of face he's shown very thoughtfully he's not shown as a warrior at all and he looks down toward the right his bodies turned a little bit off-center and so he's depicted in a very human way not as a all-powerful figure but as a man he's not idealized he is he's older he's not beautiful no and he's clenching his teeth there's a kind of determination a kind of inwardness of thought that's being represented here that's incredibly effective yeah and that I think is carried down into his hands to that with one hand he's got a handkerchief so there's a softness there and a kind of thoughtfulness even in the holding of the handkerchief which we can imagine being put up to the head and then the way that he claps the arm of the chair kind of more forcefully with his left hand so in a way all sides of Julius's personality emerge as we as we contemplate this picture by Raphael there are some other sort of iconography elements that are probably worth just mentioning you'll notice that at the tops of the chairs there are these large upside-down acorns and that refers to his actual family name which means oak and Italian down over and then there are that have been painted out by Raphael in the green background you can actually see these keys of Saint Peter the papal symbol and I'm also thinking about the way that reading green are complementary colors and this whole painting is about red and green also it's true and that really does create a kind of intensity a kind of visual animation I'm struck by the way that as you said so in love with it or what the oil paint can do right is a relatively new medium here in Italy and the high Renaissance and the fur the crinkles the velvet the gold the beard the way that the beard has a different textures textures right look at this the softness of the satin of his sleeve compared to the crinkles below its it's really quite remarkable the painting glows