Raphael Sanzio (Urbino 1483 – Rome 1520), Double Portrait
Double portrait (Agostino Beazzano and Andrea Navagero), 1516
Then there are the two wonderful portraits of Bartolo, and Baldo, by the hand of the divine Raphael. It is pointless to speak of the vividness of these two heads; since for those who are far from the painting it would not be enough to speak; for those who see it, any kind of reasoning is useless…
(Salvatore Tonci, Descrizione ragionata della Galleria Doria, Roma 1794).
The “Double Portrait” of the Doria Pamphilj collection is a superb example of Raphael’s portraiture, one of the masterpieces of the artist’s maturity, with its warm colours and silky splendour.
Raphael’s magnificent painting is one of the most significant examples of the illustrious tradition of “portraits of friendship” and appears closely linked to the biographical events of the two leading humanists and Pietro Bembo (1470-1547), one of the most important figures of the Renaissance period, who laid the foundations of Petrarchism and made a decisive contribution to the codification of the Italian literary language.
In a famous letter from Rome to Cardinal Bibbiena (Bernardo Dovizi), dated 3 April 1516, Bembo announced his intention to go to Tivoli with his literary friends Navagero, Beazzano, Baldassarre Castiglione and the painter Raffaello, for an archaeological excursion to the monumental ruins where they would observe “the old and the new and what is beautiful in that district”. The group reflects the cultural situation of the Roman scene of that period, in which poetry and painting, archaeology and erudition mixed in a fruitful collaboration.
A few days later Andrea Navagero (1483-1529), a Venetian poet and orator, Ambassador in Spain and France, would return to Venice to take on the prestigious role of the Serenissima’s official librarian and historiography scholar, while the humanist Agostino Beazzano († 1549), longtime secretary of Bembo, of whom he wrote an affectionate epitaph, would remain in the Roman court for many more years before returning to Treviso.
The two friends are portrayed on a dark background in complementary three-quarter positions, one in the background with his head turned, the other in front, looking towards the viewer with one arm resting on a parapet, which coincides roughly with the lower edge of the painting. Both are dressed fashionably, with dark clothes of different materials, which allowed the author to dedicate himself to a different way of refracting light. Intense is the physical identification: Navagero, mustache and long beard, eyes dug out by age, wears a large black velvet robe and a cap, while Beazzano, slightly more rotund, with protruding eyes and pointed chin with a dimple and a hint of double chin, has long straight hair coming out of his cap and wears a woolen jacket over a white cotton shirt elegantly pleated. Alongside the characteristics linked to their social rank, Raphael seems to have maximised here his intention to penetrate the personality of the characters portrayed.
The two figures, sharply characterized in their contrasting individuality, seem to have suddenly interrupted their conversation and turned to dialogue with their third friend, Cardinal Bembo, who probably commissioned the work from his friend Raffaello, whom he admired so much, to keep that dialogue alive even from afar.
Marcantonio Michiel saw “the painting on the table of the portraits of Navagiero and Beazzano, it was by Raphael d’Urbino” in the house of Pietro Bembo in Padua around 1526.
The painting was then donated by Bembo to Beazzano, who lived in Treviso, as documented in a letter from the poet to his secretary Antonio Anselmi dated 29 July 1538: “I am happy that Beazzano has been given the painting of the two heads of Raphael d’Urbino”.
After passing through other hands, the painting reappeared in the inventory of the collection of Cardinal Pietro Aldobrandini in Rome in 1603, to be bequeathed to his beloved niece Olimpia, who married Prince Camillo Pamphilj in 1647.
Giovanni Pietro Bellori, in fact, in 1664 “among the most excellent paintings” preserved in the Aldobrandini Pamphilj palace in Monte Magnanapoli saw “the portraits of Bartolo et di Baldo by Rafaelle da Urbino”.
At the time, in fact, memory was lost of the representations, which were variously identified as the two jurists Bartolo da Sassoferrato and his pupil Baldo degli Ubaldi or even as Martin Luther and Giovanni Calvino.
The Venetian taste for painting also provoked, in the 17th and 18th centuries, the frequent attribution of the painting to Giorgione, but the correct paternity to the “divine Raphael” is re-established in the inventory in death of Prince Giovanni Battista Pamphilj Aldobrandini of 1710, which places in the Guardarobba Aldobrandina located in the Palazzo al Corso inhabited by the most Excellent Cardinal Pamphilj “a painting on canvas applied to panel of Bartolo and Baldo, with a golden touch frame, high palms three and a half, wide palms four and a half, hand of Raffaele di Urbino”.
Raphael’s work is the one placed in the Stanza appresso il Baldacchino verso il Collegio Romano in the design of the Doria Pamphilj Gallery drawn by the architect Francesco Nicoletti in 1765.
The same author is mentioned in the works of the most attentive connoisseurs of the collection: “The fourth room is full of many excellent paintings, among which are to be observed with greater attention … two beautiful portraits of Bartolo, and Baldo, famous Jurisconsults, Raphael” (Mariano Vasi, Itinerario istruttivo di Roma… Tomo I, Roma 1791) and Salvatore Tonci, who in the Descrizione ragionata della Galleria Doria of 1794 cannot hold back his admiration for the masterpiece: “The two stupendous portraits of Bartolo, and Baldo, which are by the hand of the divine Raphael, follow. It is pointless to speak of the vividness of these two heads; since for those who are far from the painting it would not be enough to speak; for those who see it, any kind of reasoning is useless. Notwithstanding, let me add, this time Raphael is not inferior to Titian in his shade, nor to Giorgione, nor to Pordenone, nor to how many other Masters the Scuola Veneziana boasts of; nor to any of the most renowned Flemish”.
Finally, the modern reassignment to Raphael and the recognition of the figures are due to important politician and scholar Marco Minghetti, who on 17 June 1883 asked Prince Filippo Andrea V Doria Pamphilj Landi for permission to photograph the “painting that bears two portraits … which I believe to be the portrait of Navagero and Beazzano, which Bembo speaks of in his letters … The list says it is by Raphael and for my part I believe it is one of the most certain and the most beautiful”.