Renaissance Master Raphael Gave Himself a 'Nose Job' in His 1506 Self-Portrait

Published August 12th, 2020 - 11:37 GMT
Renaissance master Raphael  (Twitter)
Renaissance master Raphael (Twitter)
Raphael died in Rome in 1520 aged 37, probably from pneumonia, and was buried in Rome's Pantheon - his self-portrait was completed 15 years before he died.

Renaissance master Raphael gave himself a nose job in his 1506 self-portrait, according to researchers who created a 3D reconstruction of his skull.

Scientists from Rome University produced the reconstruction of the great artist's face from a plaster cast of what is thought to be his skull that was made in 1833. 

This was the year the remains of Raphael - dubbed 'the divine one' by his contemporaries because he always sought perfection - were last exhumed.

'The 3D model shows the eyes and mouth (in the portraits) are his, but he has been kind to himself about his nose,' said said Professor Mattia Falconi, a molecular biologist at the university's Tor Vergata campus. 

'We know that Raphael often painted himself younger than his years, and this model allows us to see him as he really was'.

Raphael died in Rome in 1520 aged 37, probably from pneumonia, and was buried in Rome's Pantheon - his self-portrait was completed 15 years before he died.

It normally hangs in Florence's Uffizi gallery but is currently in Rome for an exhibition marking the 500th anniversary of his death - he was clean-shaven in the artwork.

The portrait features the more aquiline nose that Raphael also included in other self-portraits, but the reconstruction reveals he made a 'slight change'.

'He certainly made his nose look more refined,' said Professor Falconi. 

The reconstruction shows how he may have looked closer to his death, when he wore a beard - compared to the clean shaven 22-year-old.

Falconi, along with forensic anthropologists and other experts, reconstructed the face with tissue layering techniques used by crime investigators.

The result was a face similar to that of the master on an engraving by Marcantonio Raimondi, one of his students.

'When we finished, I said to myself 'I've seen that face before,'' Falconi explained.

Another similarity is with the subject of 'Portrait of a Man,' painted between 1512 and 1515 by Sebastiano del Piombo, a Raphael contemporary and rival.

For centuries there has been speculation that the bones exhumed in 1833 and reburied in a re-styled crypt may not have been Raphael's because some of his students were later buried near him.

Falconi believes the research points to an around 85 per cent chance that the skull is Raphael's because of similarities with most of the artist's face as depicted by him and his contemporaries.

However, an art critic for the Rome newspaper La Repubblica dismissed the study, claiming the researchers had produced a cheap 'videogame version' of Raphael.

Falconi said he hoped the tomb will be opened again someday for direct tests on the skull, to get a better picture of the 'real Raphael'. 

This could resolve several mysteries, including confirming what caused his death.

A project to re-exhume the body this year was put on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic, but if it resumes Falconi said his team would be interested in seeing how faithful the artist was to his real self. 

A life-size 3D-printed bust of the man dubbed the 'Prince of Painters' by fellow artist and famed 16th-century biographer Giorgio Vasari will go on display at the museum at his birthplace in Urbino in Italy's Marche region.

Despite his premature death, Raphael produced a vast oeuvre of seminal work, much of it at the Vatican, whose opulent museums include several rooms filled with his frescoes.

Completed by Raphael's students after his death, they remain some of the Vatican's most popular rooms.  

This article has been adapted from its original source.

© Associated Newspapers Ltd.

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