Studying Raphael (Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino) I

Drawing Raphael

Studying ‘Head of an Apostle’ by Raphael, Paula Kuitenbrouwer 2012

I greatly admire this drawing by Raphael. There are many things that have occurred to me when I was copying, free hand, Raphael’s apostle.

I will share two observations. First all the features of this head have dark and light parts. The hair has dark and light areas. The nose is half hidden in the dark, and the same contrast you find in the moustache, the chin (beard), the whole face, the neck, and the ear. This creates beautiful depth and tension: how will the apostle look when we see his face in full light? Had Raphael religious motifs to plan this contrast, as if to say, the apostle is halfway the light, being close to Jesus, but still half in the dark? Or did Raphael just like this baroque effect, which is almost always artistically enchanting?

The other observation is the position of the artist. Raphael seems to look down on the apostle, from a point of height about half a metre above him. This is most unusual. Was Raphael standing on a platform to look down on the model of the apostle? Or on a ladder? What did he mean with this? Again, like the dark-light, that the apostle was enlighten by Jesus but still bound to earth? This could well be because ‘The Head of an Apostle’ is a pre-study of one of the figures for Raphael’s Transfiguration. Notice the apostle right in the middle under Jesus, (left to the man in light green, pointing to the right).

Transfiguration Raphael

Transfiguration, Raphael

Freehand drawing is always an adventure. The artist (me, in this case) allows his or her subconsciousness, genes, or influence or inspiration (or whatever you may call it) to flow into the created copy. Because there is no digital way of blocking this out in the process of free hand drawing, it is always interesting to study the difference between the object of study (Raphael) and, in this case, my copy.

One could say that the Italian apostle of Raphael is looking short and strong, whereas my apostle is skinnier and taller. Dutch genes at work? I bet.

What both drawings, luckily, have in common is that both apostles seem to suffer. Most likely that is the essence Raphael was after. Had my apostle looked happy, I would have missed out the most important aspect of Raphael’s drawing.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

9 thoughts on “Studying Raphael (Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino) I

  1. Coincidentally, I have been drawing from a book of Sargent paintings and drawings…it is a remarkable thing to do. I highly recommend it (though most of my friends will reject the idea). You did a beautiful version…!


  2. Both are beautiful and I enjoyed your analysis, Paula. It strikes me that Raphael’s apostal looks pained and your’s looks intelligent. I like that the view is from above, as if God is looking down on this man.

    Love work. Enjoyed much.

    Best wishes to you and for family for the season of love and the new year.



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