Rafael: Diptych of the Sleeping Knight and the Three Graces (I)

Rafael: Diptych of the Sleeping Knight and the Three Graces (I)
Rafael: Diptych of the Sleeping Knight and the Three Graces (I)

Throughout the Renaissance period many artists made allegorical paintings in which a much more moralistic teaching was hidden behind a supposedly light and superficial theme; in the renaissance the neoplatonic current and virtuosity will be two of the most outstanding allegories of the time. It is precisely in this sense that we can frame the Raphael diptych that concerns us here.

250px-RAFAEL_-_Dream_of_the_Knight_(National_Gallery_of_Londres, _1504._Oil_on_board, _17_x_17_cm)

It seems that at the beginning of the 16th century, between 1504 or 1505, the Renaissance artist Rafael de Sanzio made a small diptych that would include two of his most famous canvases, now separated: The Dream of the Knight Who in the It is currently preserved in the National Gallery in London and The Three Graces, a work that is in the Condé de Chantilly Museum in France. Until now, it seemed clear that the client of the canvas would have been Scipione di Tomaso Borghese,however some art historians suggest that in reality, the client of the diptych could be Francesco Maria della Rovere al who has also been considered the model for the canvas Young Man with an Apple or Boy with an Apple.

Be that as it may, the truth is that on this occasion the artist Rafael de Sanzio (1483 – 1520), one of the key figures of Italian Renaissance aesthetics who, together with Leonardo andMichelangelo forms the great Renaissance Triad, he presents us with a small diptych whose quadrangular format canvases barely exceed seventeen centimeters on a side.

In the dream of the knight Raphael represents a young man asleep in the foreground under a small laurel and flanked by two female figures, it seems that the work represents the dream of Scipio, an account taken from Cicero himself about the life of the Roman general Scipio the African. Raphael could have been inspired by an ancient Sicilio Italico poem known as La Punica, in which the Second Punic War is narrated. Thus the artist has represented the general dozing under the shade of a laurel tree, a symbol of victory; in his reverie Minerva and Aphrodite appear to him, the first as goddess of wisdom and war offers the general a book and a sword, while the second, as goddess of love, gives him a small bouquet of wild flowers.

There are several cartoons and preparatory drawings that have been preserved about this work, in them we see how the artist has made some changes, especially in the figures of the goddesses since Aphrodite should have been represented at first, with a much lighter dress.

The work takes place in aan open natural landscape in which the artist has recreated himself, wonderfully representing a great perspective through multiple paths that converge in some urban constructions, while even further in the background you can see some bluish mountains in which, due to the mist, thecontours blur as if announcing the forms of sfumato that a few years later can be seen in the works of Leonardo da Vinci.

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