In April 2021, scholars of the Italian master Raphael came together in a virtual symposium, celebrating and discussing “The Afterlife of Raphael’s Art, from His Century to Ours.” The event, co-sponsored by the University of Notre Dame School of Architecture, the Rome Global Gateway, the Nanovic Institute for European Studies, and the American Academy in Rome, marked, after a one-year delay, the 500th anniversary of Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino’s death on April 9, 1520. Led by scholars from the United States and Europe, the symposium explored the afterlife of Raphael’s achievement, which redefined art in Renaissance Italy and had an almost peerless influence on modern art in the centuries that followed.
Those who missed or wish to revisit the event can now also view a video documentary summarizing the symposium and its takeaways. This film, featuring Associate Professor David Mayernik and Professor Ingrid Rowland, both members of the University of Notre Dame School of Architecture (Rome), faculty fellows of the Nanovic Institute, and fellows of the American Academy in Rome, is more than just an abridged version of the virtual event. Over caffè al fresco and to the sound of Roman street life in the background, the viewer is invited into a rich, fascinating conversation between Mayernik and Rowland as they stroll past the churches and palazzi of Raphael’s Rome.
The video joins Mayernik and Rowland on Via Giulia where, before his untimely death at the age of 37, Raphael planned to build and live in a grand palazzo. The street, they observe, was largely occupied by cardinals and nobility up until the early 16th century, signifying Raphael’s significant ambitions for upward social mobility. For Mayernik, this location serves as a bridge between the past and the present of the artist and his legacy—Raphael’s project that might have been inspired Mayernik to develop an imaginary Accademia Raffaelliano, an academy for Raphael studies, based on his palazzo plans for Via Giulia. From here, our guides walk past Palazzo Sacchetti (completed in 1552) providing a close observation of the materials, textures, and proportions of a building similar to that which Raphael intended for himself. They also make a stop at Sant’Eligio degli Orefici, the church designed and partially completed by Raphael for the Guild of Goldsmiths, and consider how he became an architect after a career as an artist.
Interspersed with this walk through Raphael’s Rome are segments from the presentations made during the virtual symposium. Olivier Bonfait, professor of modern art history at the Université de Bourgogne, discussed Raphael’s influence on the French academic tradition where his hallowed status was contested in the 17th and early 18th centuries. In England, Adriano Aymonino, director of the undergraduate history and history of art program at the University of Buckingham, explains how Raphael was almost universally revered, even if some, such as the artist William Hogarth, viewed this reverence as excessive. D. Jeffrey Mims, of the Academy of Classical Design, contributed to the discussion from the perspective of an artist and teacher who sees himself as an heir to an academic tradition that is fundamentally Raphaelite. Mims’ students, like generations of artists-in-training before them, make copies of Raphael in ways that are careful, precise, and even devotional in their respect for his work.
The final symposium segment featured in the documentary is taken from Mayernik’s own presentation in which he presents his design for an imaginary academy for Raphael studies. It is important, Mayernik believes, that today’s students of art and architecture pay attention to Raphael’s extensive, albeit changing and sometimes contested influence. Reflecting on the symposium and video, Maynernik says, “Raphael may be the most influential artist of the Italian Renaissance on European cultural identity, his work and persona serving as models for the academic tradition across the continent and in Great Britain for centuries.” That model, Mayernik believes, is on the cusp of reinvigoration. “Even as that academic model of artistic instruction began to dissolve in the twentieth century,” he explains, “Raphael remained a touchstone of the classical tradition, and the Raphael that is emerging from recent scholarship and restorations could give new life to his impact.”
The virtual symposium and accompanying documentary video beautifully showcase this recent scholarship as well as Mayernik’s Accademia Raffaelliano project. Rowland describes making the film as a “sheer pleasure” and pays tribute to both Mayernik’s creativity and the talents of the filmmaker Matteo Maggi and the team at Cold Focus studios. “The video,” she says “makes me feel as if we are all transported not only into Raphael’s world and into the beauties of Rome through all its many ages, but also into David’s extraordinary imagination.” Framing the After Raphael project in this way Rowland muses: “perhaps it takes an artist to truly understand an artist.”