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Disputa, painting by Raphael Santi - Description

15 April 2022
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Disputa - Raphael Santi. 1509. Fresco. At the base - 770. Stanza della Segnatura


"Disputa" is a title of the fresco created by Raphael Santi in 1509-10 to take place among the first ones painted for the Vatican papal palace.

There was lots of controversy concerning the purpose of the room, with some speculation about a "signature room" or a papal library. Eventually, the researchers obtained historical evidences of the hall being intended to host the tribunal meetings that were carried out by the pope. That is the reason why fresco contains a plot of higher justice, as a harmonious joinder of earthly and divine power.

So, the action of the spectacle depicted in the fresco is happening in heaven and on earth simultaneously.

In its upper part, one can observe three layers of clouds, where the Holy Trinity rests, going from top to bottom: God the Father, God the Son and the Holy Spirit (shown as a white dove).

The Mother of God and John the Baptist are depicted next to Jesus. And further on the clouds are other biblical characters.

Hosts of cherubs frolic in the clouds, four of them holding the pages from Justinian's "Confession of Divine Providence" in Latin, keeping next to a halo around a dove.

God the Father is holding a sphere (a symbol of the Earth) in his left hand, while making the sign of the cross with his right hand. He is surrounded by many angels, as well. And there are lines diverging on a shining golden background, to symbolize the rays of divine light, full of the angels, same as the clouds.

Below, in the center of the plot, the altar is depicted with a monstrantia (a vessel for placing the Holy Gifts on it) placed on it.

On the wide steps leading to it, there are people settled down, involved into a theological debate. Among them one can notice Dante Alighieri: on the right, in the background, wearing the red robes and with a laurel wreath. On the left hand there is the Raphael’s mentor, Bramante, with a book in his hands. One can even observe a figure borrowed by the artist from Leonardo da Vinci, a pointing young man, who was actually painted from the female image of Beatrice.

The fresco is executed in a very lively style: the plasticity of the figures, their affectivity and partiality for theological issues are all shown.
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