Vernet, Émile-Jean-Horace

Paris 1789 - Paris 1863
Biography & List of works

Raphael at the Vatican

Raphael at the Vatican

Medium: Oil On Canvas

Size: 45.7 x 61.6 cm


New York, Private Collection.


A. Duvivier, “Horace Vernet, catalogue general,” in Revue de l’Art Ancien et Moderne, Feb 15 1863; J. Duseigneur, Horace Vernet, Paris, 1863.


New Orleans Museum of Art, Columbus Taft Museum, New York Stair Sainty Matthiesen Inc, Romance and Chivalry.

Nostalgia for the great artistic epochs of the past was a notable aspect of nineteenth-century historicism. One such moment was the papacy of Julius II in Rome in the early years of the sixteenth century when Michelangelo, Raphael and the architect Bramante were all working at the Vatican. In early 1509 Raphael had begun painting the Stanza della Segnatura in the Vatican, and Michelangelo had begun the Sistine ceiling. The Pope had also commissioned a major new plan for St. Peter’s from Bramante. These concurrent projects epitomizing the High Renaissance are all alluded to in Vernet’s composition.

The 1833 Salon livret, describing the finished painting for which this is a sketch, offers the psychological background for the scene: “Michelangelo meeting Raphael in the Vatican says to him, ‘You walk surrounded by an entourage like a general.’ ‘And you,’ responds Raphael, ‘you walk alone like an executioner.'” All the elements of the highly finished Salon picture are present in this sketch, including the clearly recognizable faces of the two painters. The younger Raphael is sketching a peasant woman and her baby, to be transformed into a Madonna and child for which he was famous. The bearded Michelangelo, in the lower left, holds a sketchbook, brushes, a figural sculpture, sword and keys, presumably to the Sistine Chapel where he was working in secret on the ceiling. In the upper left Julius II, shaded by an umbrella, is observing the encounter while being shown Bramante’s plan for St. Peter’s. The courtyard is filled with the blocks of marble, mentioned in eyewitness accounts, that Michelangelo had excavated for his work on Julius’ tomb.

Sketch for the 1833 Salon painting.