Between the limits of the discipline, as it is taught in graduate schools, and the structure of museological functions, exhibitions of drawings usually adhere to a restricted range of formats, which, while continuing to be viable for institutions and the public and useful for scholars in the field, can be felt as constricting for those who conceive and execute them. The scope of drawings exhibitions can be determined by time and/or place (stylistic categories), or an artistic personality (monographic), or collection ("Treasures on Paper from..."), and perhaps a few others. When a curator is faced with such a project, he may may find himself wrestling with an urge to break the mold and create something new.
prawled across the east wing that stretches from the papal residence to the Vatican Museums is an inscription commemorating one of Pope Julius II’s most important contributions to the complex now known as the Apostolic Palace: IULIUS II PONT MAX LIGURUM VI PATRIA SAONENSIS SIXTI IIII NEPOS VIAM HANC STRUXIT PONT COMMODITATI. The text is ambiguous in that “VI” may signify the ablative case of the word vis meaning power or strength, or it may stand for the Roman numeral “6.” If the former, it indicates that Julius was the sixth pope from Liguria, the others being Innocent IV (1243-1254), Hadrian V (1276), Nicholas V (1447–1455), Sixtus IV (1471–1484), and Innocent VIII (1484–1492). If the latter, it refers to the indomitable Ligurian spirit that put Julius on the throne of Peter.
If we think of Raphael today—and that is a big “if”—our mental picture is probably of a painter of Madonnas or, perhaps, of the Raphael of his first Roman frescoes, which long epitomized academic art at its best. But these are works associated with the early to middle periods of the painter’s brief life (1483-1520) and do not tell the whole story of his evolution, one of the most remarkable in the history of western art. The splendid exhibition now on show at the Prado gives us a glimpse of the greatness Raphael achieved in his last decade even though it does not fully answer the question of who Raphael really was.