On May 10, diplomats, art enthusiasts and world-renowned art experts gathered at the UN to pay tribute to the work of Italian Renaissance artist Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino, known more commonly as Raphael, who is responsible for much of the most celebrated works in the Vatican Museums, at an event entitled “An Evening with Raphael,” organized by the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the UN, together with the New York Chapter of the Patrons of the Arts in the Vatican Museums.
Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, highlighted the important role the art and beauty have in contributing to the culture "without which the lofty goals to advance peace, foster sustainable development, and protect and advance human rights and dignity cannot be achieved. "
“We talk a lot about peace and security, human rights and development. But we hardly, if ever, talk about art and beauty as crucial in the achievement of the vision and mission of the UN,” he said. “Beauty also has the capacity to unite people across generations and continents in shared admiration, establishing a transcendent common good that can be the foundation for future conversation, cooperation and even contemplation. That is why the promotion of beauty must always remain a crucial part of the work of the nations of the world.”
Drawing from Pope John Paul II’s Letter to Artists, Archbishop Auza said, “People of today and tomorrow need this enthusiasm of wonder if they are to meet and master the crucial challenges that stand before us,” noting John Paul II praised the genius of Raphael, and called his work “a remarkably powerful expression of sacred art, rising to heights of imperishable aesthetic and religious excellence.”
Monsignor Terence Hogan, North American Chaplain of the Patrons of the Arts in the Vatican Museums, brought the regards of Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, Governor of the Vatican City-State, and Barbara Jatta, the Director of the Vatican Museums, and thanked the Patrons of the Arts in the Vatican Museums for their impact.
“The restoration and preservation of these wonderful treasures that are present in the Vatican Museums is because of the kindness of the patrons,” he said.
Professor Elizabeth Lev, Art Historian and Consultant for Art and Faith for the Vatican Museums, continuously connected Raphael’s art to the theme of dialogue as she gave a detailed history and analysis of his life and work.
“Everything in the museum is intended to create a conversation between past and present,” she said. “The purpose of this evening too is to bring the idea of beauty and art as a space and theme for dialogue.”
She said Raphael is well-known among art historians for his attitude as a team player and mentor, noting many of his students became renowned artists in their own right.
“Raphael would never travel south of Rome or north of Florence, yet he brings all of us together today of different backgrounds different countries to admire beauty,” Professor Lev said. “His love for creativity, competition and collaboration makes him one of history’s most powerful communicators.”
Eric Hansen, expert in Christian art, shed light on Raphael’s masterpieces in the Vatican that are often unseen because their location is not accessible for public viewing. These works include the ornate outdoor corridors, known as Raphael’s Loggias, that bridge private spaces in the Apostolic Palaces. While describing Raphael’s “hidden art,” he also shed light into his “hidden life,” highlighting the artist’s aptitude for collaboration and joy.
Hansen said although much of Raphael’s art is solemn, he also touched the human person by using humor in his work.
“We never give him the credit he deserves for being playful,” Hansen said, while describing some of the artist’s more jovial work, such as his images of animals, which he said ignite both bewilderment and laughter among observers.
“He was proud of his workshop, and he loved them as friends,” Hansen said, noting the “master of masters and Father of the Renaissance” once said, “You work with others to create a masterpiece.”
To watch the event in its entirety, click here.
Archbishop Auza's Statement can be found here.