Raphael’s passions


Nonetheless, Raphael’s love of art usually came before his love of women. So when in 1814 Ingres painted the first historical genre scene of Raphael with La Fornarina in the studio (during a lunch break at 1.30 pm), she sits fully clothed on his lap, but he keeps hold of his porte-crayon and turns away to look at the underdrawing for her portrait. The implication is that underdrawings are even more interesting than undergarments. Raphael now becomes something very important: a model for the artist whose sexual energies are sublimated in his art. The case was made with typical robustness by Nietzsche in The Will to Power, possibly while looking at a print of Ingres’s painting. He was equally dismissive of the idea that Raphael indulged in casual sex. Great artists have to be physically strong, with plenty of sexual energy – “without a certain overheating of the sexual system a Raphael is unthinkable”. Yet despite the artist’s susceptibility to sensory stimulation and intoxication – “how wise it is at times to be a little tipsy!” – he is usually chaste. His dominant instinct “does not permit him to expend himself in any casual way”.

more from James Hall at the TLS here.