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The Prophet Isaiah by Painter Raphael Sanzio, Italian Renaissance Rivals

Raphael’s work in the Vatican Stanze was open to the curious; while Michelangelo left strict orders that no visitors were to be allowed in the Sistine Chapel. Michelangelo, busy as a bee himself, consumed with a daunting task, apparently had little interest in Raphael’s work. But Raphael had an interest in his. He paid a secret visit aided by the pope to view Michelangelo’s ceiling in progress. So profoundly did it affect him that he returned to his work in the Stanza della Segnatura, the pope’s private library, where he proceeded to pay tribute to Michelangelo by incorporating a seated figure of Michelangelo in the foreground of his masterpiece fresco, The School of Athens. That’s only the background for this little story.

Perhaps not so well known then as his Madonna’s or his magnificent Vatican frescoes, Raphael Sanzio also executed a stunning fresco of The Prophet Isaiah in Sant’Agostino in Rome in 1511-12. The donor patron of Isaiah was the Head Chancellor of the Papal Court, Johannes Goritz of Luxemburg. Ruffled by what he considered to be an exorbitant price for the painting by Raphael, Goritz solicited Michelangelo for his opinion of its worth. Michelangelo looked at the painting of his chief rival with its powerfully rendered figure of the prophet. Rarely one to acknowledge the genius in others, Michelangelo simply replied, “For that knee alone, it is worth the price.”

Brenda Harness, Art Historian


Brenda Harness is a practicing artist, art historian, and former university teacher writing about a variety of topics pertaining to art and art history. Visit her at Fine Art Touch.

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