Behind the face of Raphael Sanzio
A skull, a Madonna and an artist's workshop--are you ready to be enchanted by the master?
What it is and where it is
Casa Santi, Raphael's birthplace, watches you from behind as you walk up the street of the same name. He wants to understand if you are curious about the home of a child prodigy, the environment that surrounded him, the atmospheres that have remained impregnated among those rooms from long ago, when little Raphael was not yet a celebrity, but the son of the painter Giovanni Santi. Part of those walls was the artist's workshop, where he skillfully created the hues he would use on his own works, immersing his son in the pure art of drawing and the inspiration that would enrapture him, leading him beyond the limits of aesthetics.
Why it is special
Arguably the most striking room remains the young Raphael's Bedroom. To this day almost bare, it nevertheless bears images of a past that is still future: who can imagine the dreams perpetrated within those walls? Certainly witness the fresco of the Madonna and Child that makes a fine display along one wall: this very subject became typical of Raphael. Previously attributed to his father Giovanni Santi, more recent studies have recognized in it the hand of his young son, certainly influenced by the cultural richness of Urbino. The use of color makes the work stand out by radiating a special light that has great impact on the viewer's gaze.
Not to be missed
If you go into the Hall of Memorabilia, prepare yourself for an encounter with an artifact of incalculable value: the plaster cast of Raphael's skull! This very skull was instrumental in the creation of the 3-D facial construction of the Urbino artist's face. Thanks to the Center for Molecular Anthropology at the University "Tor Vergata" in Rome and the VIGAMUS Foundation and the Raphael Academy of Urbino, it is now possible to look into the eyes of the Divine Painter, exhibited at Casa Santi. Research shows that the skeleton found in the Pantheon in 1833 is indeed that of Raphael Sanzio, who died prematurely at age 37.
A bit of history
Today Casa Santi is a house museum: you will find works by Giovanni Santi, copies of Raphael's paintings, as well as tributes by other artists to this immortal figure. All of this is the result of the committed and ongoing work of the Raphael Academy, dedicated to the cult of the artist, based in his very birthplace, which was also acquired thanks to the contribution of English collector John Morris Moore. Part of it had previously been acquired by the Urbino architect Muzio Oddi in 1635: he restored the building and chose to include the Latin inscription, which can still be read today.
Built in the 15th century, it officially became Casa Santi in 1460, when Giovanni made it his own and set up his workshop there. Equally interesting is the Great Hall, the main room characterized by its coffered wooden ceiling, as striking as the 16th-century fireplace made of local stone. And then the gallery overlooking the courtyard, the sottoportico, the well: every room in the house carries with it the sound of Raphael's footsteps as a child, of his growing passion for a world he could access through his father's example.
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