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

The 'Stufetta' of Cardinal Bibbiena

Palazzi Pontifici, Vatican

In 1516 Raphael and his followers were commissioned to decorate the bathroom of the Cardinal Bibbiena's Vatican apartments, the so-called Stufetta. The ornamental motives employed in the Stufetta paintings derive from those of the Domus Aurea, the villa of the Emperor Nero situated between the Palatine and the Velian hills. The Domus Aurea had recently been rediscovered. By 1516 it had become an object of great enthusiasm for contemporary artists. The names of Giovanni da Udine, Domenichino and other lesser known painters are still visible, scratched in the walls of the monument.

Raphael painted the Story of Venus on the walls of the Stufetta, perhaps at the suggestion of the Cardinal. He represented the episodes of the story in the same techniques used in the Domus Aurea: stucco and fresco. The decoration of the borders started a new ornamental style, called "grottesque", which derives from the decoration of the "grotto" of Nero's villa. The new style was widely used throughout the Cinquecento and after It replaced the "candelabro" motif of the Quattrocento, generally made up of plants, animals and stylised putti growing out of a vase or amphora. Raphael thus left his mark in the field of decorative tastes as well as in that of pictorial style.