When in 1507 the Raphael‘s Baglioni Altarpiece was placed on the altar of San Matteo in the Church of San Francesco al Prato, in Perugia, no one would ever have imagined that about 100 years later Cardinal Scipione Borghese would have craved its possession so much to commission its theft. Robbery that, following the riot of the Perugians, in a few days became a “voluntary donation” by the friars, immediately ratified by Scipione’s uncle, Pope Paul V.
At the time of the crime, in 1608 Raphael’s art, the Baglioni Altarpiece and the subject of the central altarpiece, “The Transport of Christ“, still enjoyed great fortune. Therefore, many copies had been made over the years.
Two of these are now preserved in the National Gallery of Umbria.
Although of the same size (184 × 176 cm), and equal to the original one, which is now in the collection of the Galleria Borghese in Rome, the Perugian copies were made at different times and on different media.
A copy on wood was made in 1554, when the original was still in its initial location, by Domenico Alfani, a friend of Raphael, in collaboration with his son Orazio. The panel was destined to the church of Sant’Agostino, also in Perugia.
The other copy, instead, on canvas, is attributed to Cavalier d’Arpino, and dated 1609, considering that it was commissioned by the cardinal to compensate the city for the deprivation of the original.
On both of these two copies, Art-Test Firenze performed with the Vis-IR scanner Infrared Reflectography on the entire surface. Thanks to the particular flexibility of the instrumentation, and to excellent coordination with the restorers and art historians of the National Gallery of Umbria, we were able to complete the works in just two consecutive days.
The reflectographic campaign, returning the image of the preparatory drawing, will be used by scholars to study the theme of “copies”, evaluating the methods of execution, through similarities and differences between them and with the original, that was also recently investigated and restored. All of this was to be on display at the exhibition, currently canceled for the closing period due to COVID19, entitled “The fortune of Raphael’s Pala Baglioni through its copies”.
We hope it will be rescheduled soon!