Raphael's "Fire In The Borgo" And The Italian Pictorial Vernacular

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Art Bulletin


Modern scholars have often judged Raphael's Fire in the Borgo to be a disppointment. It has been criticized for a lack of proportion, narrative, and structural coherence and for its awkward Michelangelesque nudes. However, rather than as a tired pastiche executed by assistants, it might better be understood as Raphael's argument for a new theory of painting derived from the literary texts being produced at the court of Pope Leo X. Specifically, the Fire in the Borgo asks to be evaluated according to Pietro Bembo's new criterion for evaluating a work of literature: Petrarchan pleasantness (piacevolezza) over Dantean gravity (gravitá).

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