This small canvas reproduces a painting that is over 4 metres tall and almost 3 metres wide. The original 'Transfiguration' is the last painting that Raphael – one of the greatest artists of the Italian Renaissance – worked on before his death in 1520.1 It was commissioned by Cardinal Giulio de Medici, later Pope Clement VII (1523–34) as an altarpiece for the cathedral of Narbonne in France. Sebastiano del Piombo painted the other painting for the bishop's seat – 'The Raising of Lazarus', now in the National Gallery, London. Raphael's work is today one of the highlights of the Vatican Museum in Rome.
The composition depicts two New Testament episodes both described in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark. The Transfiguration of Christ dominates the upper register – the figures of the prophets Moses and Elijah appear with Christ over Mount Tabor, with the Apostles Peter, James and John shielding their eyes from the heavenly figures. The lower part of the painting shows an episode in which the Apostles fail to cure a boy possessed by demons, and await the return of Christ, who performs a miracle. In the unusual combination of the scenes, Raphael celebrates the all-encompassing healing power of the transfigured Christ.
The original work is generally viewed as the culmination of Raphael’s artistic development, and is one of his most compositionally complex paintings. His contemporary, Giorgio Vasari, artist and biographer, described the 'Transfiguration' as Raphael’s 'most famous, most beautiful and most divine' painting.
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