Houses associated with famous people – houses in which they were born, lived part of their lives or died – can sometimes come as a disappointment, especially if they are associated with painters. For example, there is not a single painting by Modigliani in his house in Livorno (explainable, perhaps, by the fact that he left that city quite early in life to go to live and die in Paris) and Michelangelo’s house in Florence is only redeemed by an early sculpture of his.
We, therefore, approached Raphael’s family house in Urbino (at appropriately named Via Raffaello no 57) in trepidation and were pleasantly surprised when we found it contained an early fresco by this most perfect of painters on one of the walls in the house.
What was rather more interesting to us, however, was the décor and layout of the dwelling which presented an excellent example of a typical Urbino town house from the fifteenth century.
Belonging to Raphael’s father, Giovanni Santi, who was court painter (and a poet too) to the Duke Frederico of Urbino, it had several interesting features including a painting by Raphael’s dad which shows just how far Raphael travelled in his artistic career:
There were lovely “soffitti a cassettoni” and some nice furniture:
There were several pictures of what seemed to be more Raphaels but they were just good very recent copies!
There was a delightful inner courtyard complete with well:
Interestingly, the house was purchased by an aristocratic Englishman, John Morris Moore, who donated it to the city and it now also contains the Raphael Academy dedicated to research on the painter. I haven’t been able to find out much about this person except that in 1885 he wrote a book about Raphael called “Apollo and Marsyas”.
We are used to seeing pre-Raphaelite paintings in English art galleries. In my opinion such a name is a misnomer – none of those “Pre-Raphaelites” could have painted their pictures if they had not studied Raphael closely enough to bring at least a part of his genius into their compositions. And this genius died at the age of only 37 in 1520!