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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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.)
More Works by Raphael
Beware of biographical stories trying to explain a great portrait; they are rarely, if ever, true.
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