Self-portrait with a Friend

Raphael (1519)

Another mystery, this, in that no one knows for sure who the figure on the right is. On the left is the artist, the older of the two, and much more static and considered. The younger man is thought to be Giulio Romano, Raphaels beloved pupil, so what does the picture tell us about their relationship? They are wearing similar clothing – those dark, sombre colours setting off the miraculous realism and light of their faces – but they are not the same. The higher position in the frame and paternal left hand of the artist suggests a duty of care and even a restraining of the younger mans natural impulsiveness (see how he turns around, and points ahead at we know not what). So theres friendship and tenderness here, but its also about art itself: Romano was a pupil of Raphael, and, in the latters quiet pride and the formers gentle impatience, we are shown the future. This is painted the year before Raphaels death (aged just 37) and represents both a passing of the mantle from one generation to the next and, in the breathtaking attention to detail on his friend’s face, an eloquent testament to the eternal genius of the older man.