Lifestyle & Culture

Virtual Museum: Raphael in Rome

A view of one of the exhibition rooms of “Raphael, 1520-1483.” The painting on the far right is the famous “Alba Madonna,” back in Italy for the first time since the 17th century. At far left is Raphael’s “Madonna and Child With Saint Anne.” In the exhibit hall, masks and social distancing will be enforced.


THE GREAT RENAISSANCE painter and architect Raphael Sanzio lived and died in a period when Italy was relatively free of epidemics. It took the 21st-century Coronavirus pandemic to disrupt a monumental exhibition in Rome mounted to mark the 500th anniversary of his death.

This is generally thought to be a self-portrait of the young Raphael. The Renaissance painter and architect directed an enormous workroom, which allowed him to produce a remarkable amount of work before dying at age 37.


The exhibit opened in March and closed down after only three days, given the Covid-19 catastrophe that engulfed Italy. Now the show, at the Scuderie del Quirinale (usually known in English as the Papal Stables), has reopened and will run through August 30. Hours have been extended, starting today, from 8am until 11 at night on weeknights. On Fridays and Saturdays it will be open till 1 in the morning. But what was almost guaranteed to be a blockbuster will be a much quieter, and safer, affair, with only six to eight masked visitors allowed to enter the exhibit hall every five minutes. The tours will be guided, with five minutes allotted to each of the rooms.

Given the extreme unlikelihood of most of us being able to attend in person, I was happy to find a video that walks us through the exhibition on the Quirinale, the highest of Rome’s seven hills. At this writing, tickets do seem to be available online, so if the stars align and you think you will find yourself in the Eternal City before the end of August, you may benefit from this show of more than 200 works, borrowed from collections and museums all over the world.

—Nancy McKeon

Raffaello 1520-1483, Scuderie del Quirinale, via Ventiquattro Maggio 16, Rome. 15 euros, through August 30, 2020.

Another view of “Raphael, 1520-1483,” at the Scuderie del Quirinale in Rome.


Raphael’s genius was to make devotional works into human events filled with emotion and telling a personal story beyond the usual iconography. This is a detail from Raphael’s “Madonna and Child With Saint Anne.” According to tradition, Saint Anne was Mary’s mother. Another detail from the painting is on the MyLittleBird homepage.


Known as “La Fornarina” (daughter of the local baker, the fornaio), Margherita Luti was Raphael’s mistress.


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