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

The Prophet Isaiah

Fresco, 250 x 155 cm
Sant'Agostino, Rome

A new fresco occupied Raphael during the period 1511-1512: the Prophet Isaiah painted for Johannes Goritz of Luxemburg, Head Chancellor of the Papal Court. That the work was commissioned by a foreigner is indicative of the extraordinary fame that Raphael had acquired. This powerful but composed prophet and the putti who surround him echo Michelangelo's figures in the Sistine Ceiling. Nonetheless, the putti, whose glances and poses are enlivened by a strong spiritual tension, are transformed by Raphael into tender and formally controlled children. Even the action of the wind that blows Isaiah's mantle is a life-giving device rather than an expression of dramatic feeling. The dedicatory inscription in Greek (which alludes to St Anne, patron of Goritz) and the Hebrew scroll which the Prophet holds, reflect the learned environment in which the work was conceived.

According to Vasari, Raphael repainted it after seeing Michelangelo's prophets. The fresco in later centuries was repainted several times and restored in 1960.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.