Raphael’s Tommaso Inghirami (c. 1511)

Tommaso Inghirami, a friend of Raphael's and the Pope's secretary, was also a poet, named poet laureate at Innsbruck in 1497.1 Identifying with a literary poet as Michelangelo did with Dante, Raphael used his friend's visual defect to symbolize his own. Holding pen to paper - much like an artist drawing -  the poet turns his head upwards and away. Others, unaware that the artist is identifying with the poet, have also suggested that the Pope's secretary is listening to or witnessing divine revelation.2 

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Raphael, Tommaso Inghirami (c.1511)  Palazzo Pitti, Florence.

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In addition to the poet's status as the artist's alter ego it has also not been recognized that Raphael has used his sitter's visual defect as a symbol for his own. His mismatched eyes, aiming in different directions, symbolize the artist's forms of vision: insight (here, divine inspiration) and normal sight (the perception of nature.)

 

Captions for image(s) above:

Detail of Raphael's Tommaso Inghirami

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Notes:

1. John Shearman, Only Connect....., Art and the Spectator in the Italian Renaissance (Princeton University Press) 1992, pp. 130-1

2. Maria Ruvoldt, The Italian Renaissance Imagery of Inspiration (Cambridge University Press) 2004, pp. 146-7

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