Artibus et Historiae no. 50 (XXV)2004, ISSN 0391-9064
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JÓZEF GRABSKI - The Lost Portrait of a Youth (attributed to Raphael) from the Collection of the Princes Czartoryski Family in Cracow. A Contribution to Studies on the Typology of Renaissance Portrait
Lost since 1945, the Portrait of a Young Man has been known to modern scholars only from photographs. Without examining the original, it is difficult to conclusively confirm or refute the portrait's attribution to Raphael, which became traditional in the 19th century. Modern art history, unable to study the painting itself, has of necessity repeated the attribution made by earlier scholars who had the opportunity to see the original before the Second World War. Although the typology of the Portrait of a Young Man originated in Northern Italy, it also shows the influence of Northern European artists. This type of portrait recalls Bellini, Giorgione, and Titian's earlier work. Such Northern Italian portraiture was also influenced by early Dutch painters, Dürer and Leonardo. The portrait under discussion is not Umbrian or Florentine - the traditions in which Raphael was trained. It has a range of qualities characteristic of paintings from the 1520s and later, precursors of Mannerist portraiture (analogies in portraits by Sebastiano del Piombo, Moretto da Brescia, Lorenzo Lotto, Salviati, or Pontormo and Parmigianino). The Portrait of a Young Man aroused interest in the years following Raphael's death, and there are several known copies. Such interest suggests that this is Raphael's image, rather than that of an unknown youth painted by Raphael. The classical, idealized beauty of the sitter, presented an an uomo ideale, indicates that it may be a posthumous likeness of the 'godlike Raphael' xecuted in ommaggio of the dead artist. Thus, we would have here a "Portrait of Raphael" but not by Raphael (in Italian it is the same expression: "ritratto di Raffaello"). The question, who of Raphael's contemporaries could have immersed himself so deeply in his style, whether one of his students, immitators or artists inspired solely by his work, with regard to the Raphaelesque theme, or if this is indeed the work of Raphael himself, will for now remain unresolved. There is evidence that points at Giulio Romano or Sebastiano del Piombo. The latter was the Eternal City's most fashionable portraitist in the second and third decades of the 16th century. He knew Raphael well, and was Michelangelo's protégé. His portraits combined Northern influences (Dürer, Bellini, Giorgione) with those of Leonardo, Michaelanglo, and of course Raphael. Ultimately, only an examination of the original will be able to determine, once and for all, the authorship of this exquisite Renaissance portrait.