This is just a quick post- a placeholder, if you like- to acknowledge the controversy about the Judgement of Paris, attributed to Raphael. It’s obvious to me that there are omissions on both sides, and we need more information before we can launch a real debate about it. When I tried to summarise the information in Graeme Cameron’s book, I wasn’t in possession of all his research matter; what appears in his book is just the tip of a much larger iceberg. However, to help me with my off-line researches into the Judgement of Paris generally, and renaissance aesthetics, Graeme Cameron has sent me his complete research material on the painting, which includes technical and scientific data. I’m currently sifting through this material and will present a summary of its main points in a series of posts over the next month as I’m anxious to give a wider research picture to aid interpretation and evaluation. This will aim to put the Malmesbury Judgement in its art historical, stylistic, technical and Raphael studies contexts. After that its up to the individual whether to accept, attribute, or reject this picture. I’m not going to fall out with anybody over this attribution.
A few points. On the question of quality, including whether this is a copy or schoolwork, I would point out that three of the most eminent scholars of the nineteenth-century vouched for the quality of this picture: Gustave Waagen, J.David.Passavant and Sir Charles Eastlake, although admittedly they assigned it to Giorgione, not Raphael- the attribution was removed in the twentieth-century. I must also clarify a point which is also important. All of these experts were affiliated to institutions: Waagen, (former Director of Berlin’s Gemaldegalerie and its first Professor of Art History); Passavant who was the Berlin Gemaldegalerie’s Curator and an artist; Eastlake who was then Britain’s foremost art historian, also an artist and former Director of The National Gallery London). Indeed, I can recall Lady Eastlake’s comment on her husband’s ability to detect copies or doubtful attributions. “My husband is a fountainhead of knowledge and seldom quits a collection of any kind without having cleared up some doubtful masters for the owners. The way in which [Sir Charles] smashes a false name is sometimes very amusing. “ (Correspondence of Lady Eastlake).
I should have made this clear, but this picture was hardly “private” since it did have an institutional record. These three institutionally connected scholars provided letters of attestation to the picture’s qualities and its Giorgione authorship. Obviously, this begs the question of why then didn’t they assign it to Raphael? I think the answer partly lies in the fact that the link between Raphael, Giorgione and the Venetian school is new in scholarship and Eastlake and his colleagues weren’t aware of this angle. There’s a whole new avenue to be opened up on Raphael and the Venetians, as is evident from reading this unpublished research. Published articles on this subject have only been appearing quite recently; I’ll say more about this in a future post on the painting’s significance to Raphael studies.
As for Hubert Damisch, the significance of his book for this specific debate is that in a an important discussion of the Raimondi engraving, Damisch refers to an “an absent but conjectured “Masterpiece” by Raphael related to Marcantonio’s “The Judgement of Paris.” Although Damisch's book ranges far beyond the visual images, he is very well informed about visual art. He was taught by American art historians of the calibre of Meyer Schapiro and has curated exhibitions of drawings at the Louvre. I’ve no idea what he would make of this painting, but his book, without doubt, provides one of the most important contexts for further research on this painting and its themes.
That’s it for now. I’ll aim to get the first in this series up next week, but first there’s the tale of two Leonardos to tell.