(b. 1483, Urbino, d. 1520, Roma)

Crucifixion (Città di Castello Altarpiece)

Oil on wood, 281 x 165 cm
National Gallery, London

The presence of Peruginesque motifs in Raphael's work is still quite evident in the Crucifixion of 1502-1503, now in the National Gallery in London. This painting, showing the crucified Christ with the Virgin, St Jerome, Mary Magdalene, and John the Evangelist, originally formed the central part of an altarpiece commissioned for the Church of San Domenico in Città di Castello. It is the first work that Raphael signed. The signature, "Painted by Raphael of Urbino," documents his full artistic autonomy and indicates his background.

The composition derives from other panels on the same subject painted by Perugino; for example, the imposing Chigi Altarpiece for Sant'Agostino in Siena. But the rigorous correspondences of gesture that distinguish Raphael's figures from the sentimental and obvious poses of the master, clearly set the young pupil apart. The faces are treated with a subtler chiaroscuro and the volumes are, as a result, more slender than those of Perugino. Thus Raphael - even though he is unwilling and, perhaps, unable to break away from Perugino's influence - shows his true temperament in this painting. This temperament includes an extraordinary feeling for proportion and an acute visual sensibility. It is even more evident in the two predella compartments - one in the Cook Collection in Richmond and the other in the Lisbon Gallery - with Stories from the Life of St Jerome.

Suggested listening (streaming mp3, 22 minutes):
Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina: Missa brevis