The slow work of restoring the preparatory sketch for one of Raphael’s most famous frescoes has been completed at the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana in Milan. Both the sketch and the finished work it prepared are of an inestimable value.
The sketch is a life-size drawing of the School of Athens, one of the four frescoes Pope Julius II ordered from Raphael in 1508, to decorate the Room of the Segnatura in the heart of the apostolic palace at the Vatican. Although the masterpiece is known as the School of Athens, the original title was Philosophy. Each of the four walls of the Room develops a theme, philosophy, theology, virtue and poetry, using a complex iconography.
The sketch has been entirely preserved. It was not used to trace Raphael’s drawing onto the wall, but to show the pope what the work would look like once finished.
After coming to Milan in 1610, the venerable sketch underwent many vicissitudes—including an exile in France during the Revolution—before returning to the walls of the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana.
After the restoration that began in 2014 using the most modern techniques, the sketch will once again be available to the public as of March 27, 2019, one year before the 500th anniversary of the death of the famous painter from Urbino.