Research reveals Raphael's "true face"

Raphael’s real face: reconstructed in 3D

by Arianna Ardia-Wenink
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Italian art experts have created a 3D reconstruction of the face of the Renaissance artist Raphael, which they say proves he was buried at the Pantheon in Rome. Researchers at Rome university compared portraits with a plaster cast of the artist’s skull. And reveals how he really looked like.

Raffaello Sanzio died in Rome in 1520 at the age of 37, eight days after contracting a fever.

Scientists at the Tor Vergata University in Rome were recently able to make a 3D plaster cast of the skull of a skeleton that was originally exhumed at the Pantheon in 1833; for a long time, it was unclear whether the skeleton definitively belonged to Raphael. However, these researchers have now compared the plaster cast they made to self portraits made by Raphael and portraits of him that were painted by others and concluded that the skeleton is certainly Raphael’s.

Researchers have used a plaster cast of a skull thought to belong to Raffaello Sanzio, the Renaissance artist known as Raphael, to create a 3D reconstruction of the man’s face. Raphael was buried in the Pantheon at the time of his death at the age of 37 in 1520. In 1833, his tomb and several others were exhumed, and a plaster cast was made of the artist’s purported skull, before the remains were reinterred.

I liked to look at the painter portrayed by himself at the Galleria deglia Uffizi in Florence (Autoritratto, 1504-1506,  Galleria degli Uffizi a Firenze),  in the School of Athens (Scuola di Atene, 1509-1511, Stanza della Segnatura, Musei Vaticani, Città del Vaticano) in the Vatican Rooms. Or in that Self-portrait with a friend (Autoritratto con un amico, 1518-1520, Parigi, Museo del Louvre) – who arrived from the Louvre for the exhibition at the Scuderie del Quirinale – where he is now tired, heavy with swollen eyes, perhaps from too much work. But, in the 500th anniversary of his death, a team from the University of Tor Vergata recinstructed the face of the most beloved artist of the sixteenth century. Here Raphael has long, reddish hair that falls in small, well-combed waves. He looks more like a brother of the Salvator Mundi of Leonardo than how we know the painter from Urbino.

Molecular biologist Mattia Falconi of Tor Vergata University said the 3-D reconstruction matches Raphael’s self-portraits and images of him painted by others. “The 3D model shows the eyes and mouth in the portraits are his, but he has been kind to himself about his nose,” Falconi commented.Digital Image 2015 (c) Photo Scala, Firenze

Raffello, Autoritratto

Raffello Sanzio, Autoritratto, Galleria degli Uffizi, Firenze (Wikimedia Commons, public domain)

“This research provides, for the first time, concrete proof that the skeleton exhumed from the Pantheon in 1833 belonged to Raffaello Sanzio and opens the paths towards possible future molecular studies aimed at validating this identity,” Olga Rickards, a molecular anthropologist at Tor Vergata University, told the Guardian. The study aimed  at validating his identity and determinating some characters of the character correlated with the DNA such as the phenotypic characteristics (color of the eyes, hair and skin). The researchers now plan to obtain a sample of the remains in Raphael’s tomb for genetic study.


Featured image above: Università di Tor Vergata ricostruisce il volto di Raffaello servizio di
TG2000 su Youtube: Originale ricerca e stampu: Universitá degli studi di Roma Tor Vergata.

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