Raphael: The Drawings

Ashmolean Museum

1 June – 3 September 2017

£6 with National Art Pass (standard entry £12)

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Drawing on works produced by the artist over the course of his career, this display reveals the range and skill of his draftsmanship.

Raphael would return to drawing throughout his career, using it as both a way of experimenting with expression and of mastering portrayals of the human form. Although many of his sketches were simply preliminary research for large-scale projects such as the Vatican frescos, the artist also considered them to stand as works of art in their own right.

The museum holds 50 of Raphael's drawings its permanent collection, widely considered the world's greatest holdings of his work on paper. These include a softly rendered image of a youth – largely considered to be a self-portrait – and animated sketches of hands, heads and faces in produced in chalk, ink and charcoal. 

They form the basis of this major exhibition, which also includes significant loans such as Three Standing Men, which the artist sent to Albrecht Dürer in order to show of his considerable ‘free hand’ talents.

This important piece depicting three nudes (although one is only very faintly sketched) in red chalk is a fantastic example of Raphael’s ability to carve out the light and shadow of taut flesh, while also managing to capture both the movement and emotion of his subjects. It has a written annotation by Dürer, in which he praises the considerable skill involved.

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The Head of a Muse set a world record for the price of any work on paper, when it was sold for £29 million at auction in 2009. It was drawn as a study for a figure in Parnassus, one of the series of four frescoes in the Stanza della Segnatura in the Vatican.

Venue information

Opening times

Tue – Sun, Bank Holiday Mon, 10am – 5pm

Closed 24 – 26 Dec

"Art Fund" is the operating name of the National Art Collections Fund, a charity registered in England and Wales (209174) and Scotland (SC038331)