In Nelson Minnich's religious interpretation of Raphael's famous portrait of Pope Leo X, Minnich first begins with the very basics of the portrait; what is contained within its canvas and why it is there. From small clues such as these, he is able to lay the foundation for which theories and conclusions can be based.
He first points out the location of the figures in the painting. Minnich believes that they are in a large room, seated before a green cloth on the wall, or cloth of honor. There is some speculation, however, as to exactly where this room is located. Several theorists, as well as he, believe that the location is a room in the Vatican, perhaps the library. He points out that there is reflection of a window in several objects in the portrait, allowing more narrowing down the location even further and debunking the library idea.
With the location not quite known, Minnich moves on to the color scheme. He points out that the painting is known for its use of red on the robes of the pope and cardinals, the furniture, and the table coverings. Red was considered a papal color, so this is not unusual in a papal portrait. What is unusual however, is the other two men accompanying the pope in the portrait who were painted in later.
Minnich identifies these cardinals as Luigi de'Rossi, Leo's first cousin, and Guilio de'Medici, another of Leo's cousins. Leo was extremely close with Luigi and this is shown by Luigi's hands on Leo's chair. Guilio was considered Leo's right hand man, and is depicted as so in the portrait by being almost a part of Leo's right arm. Minnich also points out that it is ironic that Guilio is depicted as a cardinal because his clerical status wasn't determined at the time. From here we move on to another important item in the portrait, the bell.
This specific bell was made for Leo after his election and is a hand bell used for praying. Minnich explains that its presence is most likely to represent Christ in the portrait. Next to the...
Bibliography: Minnich, Nelson H. "Raphael 's Portrait Leo X with Cardinals Guilio de ' Medici and Luigi de ' Rossi: A religious interpretation." Renaissaince Quarterly, vol. 56 no. 4 (Winter 2003), 1005-1052.
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