Largest-ever show of Raphael's work already setting records

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Rome's landmark homage to the master painter and architect Raphael is scheduled to open after six more weeks, but it's already setting records for ticket sales.

Organizers of the exhibit for the Renaissance maestro that will be hosted at the Scuderie del Quirinale in Rome told Xinhua they sold 10,000 tickets in the first 48 hours on sale -- more than any exhibit ever hosted at the facility.

The event is being organized to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the death of Raphael, who was 37 years old when he died on April 6, 1520. The grand opening of the exhibition will take place just over a month before the actual anniversary -- on March 5 -- and will run through June 2.

With more than 100 of Raphael's works on display, including artwork on loan from the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, the National Gallery London, Paris' Louvre Museum, and the Prado Museum in Madrid, the exhibit will represent the largest and most varied collection of the artist's work ever collected in one place.

"This is an enormous and very important undertaking," Antonio Forcellino, author of multiple books about both Raphael and the Renaissance, said in an interview. "Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci are probably the best-known figures of the Renaissance, but Raphael is probably the greatest painter of the era."

Silvia Ginzburg, an art history professor at Roma Tre University, echoed that point.

"Raphael was different than the other masters, who rose from humble circumstances," said Ginzburg, who curated a smaller, just-concluded exhibit about Raphael hosted in Urbino, the central Italian city where Raphael was born in 1483.

"Raphael was close to the noble Court of Urbino," Ginzburg told Xinhua. "He was well-traveled and highly educated. He was admired by his contemporaries."

The works on loan to Italy from the Louvre Museum and other French collections are the second part of an exchange that started last year when the Uffizi and a few other Italian institutions loaned works by Leonardo Da Vinci to the Louvre to celebrate the 500th anniversary of that maestro's death.

That anniversary in 2019 briefly sparked some political friction between Italy and France over who should claim Leonardo Da Vinci, who was born and lived most of his life in Italy but died in Paris where his most famous painting, the Mona Lisa, is on display.

According to Forcellino, Raphael is in the midst of a historical re-evaluation -- not just as a painter but as an architect and an intellectual that is relevant to that kind of conflict last year's standoff over the anniversary of Leonardo Da Vinci's death created. He added that the homage to Raphael at the Scuderie del Quirinale along with various other tributes organized in Italy and elsewhere will be part of that evaluation.

"Raphael was the architect behind some of the greatest buildings of the Renaissance," Forcellino said. "Just as importantly, as a thinker, he was a champion of the notion of a peaceful society, one without conflict. That is something we can learn from today more than ever." 

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