Vision and the Visionary in Raphael

By (author) Christian K. Kleinbub

Hardback - £78.95

Publication date:

03 February 2011

Length of book:

224 pages


Penn State University Press

ISBN-13: 9780271037042

Although Raphael has long been recognized as one of the great innovators of visionary painting (images of supernatural phenomena, including apparitions and prophetic visions), the full measure of his achievement in this area has never been taken. Vision and the Visionary in Raphael redresses this oversight by offering an expansive reading of these works within their contemporary artistic and religious contexts. At the center of the book is Raphael’s engagement with one of the critical conflicts in the Renaissance understanding of vision. Whereas artistic theory emphasized painting’s engagement with the physical world by way of the bodily eyes, religious images were generally intended to inspire their viewers to move from sensible appearances to the use of their “spiritual eyes” for contemplation of their god. For Raphael and his contemporaries, this double commitment to physical appearances and the spiritual dimensions of the image presented one of the greatest challenges of Renaissance religious art.

“With a rare combination of precise and probing visual analysis and searching historical and textual scholarship, Christian Kleinbub opens entirely new prospects on the artist who personifies our concept of High Renaissance. Vision and the Visionary in Raphael demonstrates the fuller dimensions of a profound pictorial intelligence. The very notion of seeing, in its several aspects, is at the core of this study, which includes not only the spectator/worshipper before an altarpiece, but also the spectator/witness in the istoria and the vision of the seer/prophet. While focusing on Raphael, it inevitably involves the full Renaissance tradition, from Alberti’s articulation of the viewer to Renaissance responses to and commentaries on the visionary in theological literature from antiquity to Ficino and Savonarola, as well as theological commentary in a particularly Pauline tradition. Kleinbub discovers new and deeper aspects of Raphael as a thinking artist.”

—David Rosand, Columbia University