Raphael maintained his ties with Urbino after the death in 1494 of his father Giovanni Santi, who left a flourishing studio headed by Evangelista da Pian di Meleto. He was very soon immersed in the culture of the city, of which his father had been one of the leading exponents, while also maintaining personal contacts with artists such as Perugino, Pinturicchio, and Signorelli. The quality of his work also earned him the protection of Duke Guidobaldo, and of his wife Elisabetta Gonzaga, as well as of Giovanna Feltria. The little Tosio panel is one of Raphael’s early works and is considered to have been made in about 1505. Designed for private devotion, it shows Christ the Redeemer Blessing in the close foreground, with a landscape behind. The painting reveals the complex culture that Raphael had acquired in his hometown, with the finest influences both in painting, from Piero della Francesca and Melozzo da Forlì, and in architecture, from Alberti, Laurana, and Bramante. The young Raphael made the most of his Montefeltro culture and this is clear to see in the Christ the Redeemer Blessing from Brescia. The nude torso with the signs of the Passion, which emerges from the red mantle, shows some traces of the art of Giovanni Santi as it appears in the frescoes in the Tiranni Chapel in Cagli. The expressive rendering of the face and the slight twisting of Christ’s body, however, show how fast Raphael was progressing. The centre line of the horizon of the landscape allows the figure to express a new vision of spatial relations, suggesting knowledge of classical statuary. The work is given an exquisite touch by the precision and fineness of the paint, picking out every detail of the face, on which the artist has used a hatching technique. This recalls the process used for illuminating manuscripts, of which Federico da Montefeltro’s library contained some magnificent specimens. There is a harmonious relationship between the physical nature of the figure, bathed in light, and the peaceful atmosphere of the landscape behind. The painting was purchased in Milan by the collector Paolo Tosio (1775 - 1842), with the mediation of Teodoro Lechi, who in turn had negotiated with Marquis Mosca of Pesaro, the owner of the work since 1770. The Christ entered the Brescia collection in 1821.
The Accademia Carrara and the Pinacoteca Tosio Martinengo of Brescia are in many ways sister institutions, and the cultural ties between them date back a long way. The strength of this bond has now led to the first joint project in the centuries-old history of the museums, both of which have embarked on a major revitalisation, and both of which will benefit greatly from the alliance. The total renovation of the two Lombard museums – the Carrara in 2015 and the Tosio Martinengo in 2018 – and the strategy of both to put on exhibitions at the national level make them the cultural spearheads of two cities, Bergamo and Brescia, which aim to collaborate permanently in future. The Raphael exhibition at the Carrara will run from January, and the Brescia one on Titian will open in the spring. The cultural opportunities offered to the public by the Carrara and the Tosio Martinengo illustrate the essence of their historic ties, promoting their cultural assets and the history of their collections, and the commitment of both museums to the contemporary world. In early 2018, the Carrara will open the exhibition devoted to Raphael, in which pride of place will be given to one of the gems in the picture gallery, the Saint Sebastian by the great master of Urbino, which entered Guglielmo Lochis’s collection in 1836. The project is part of a long series of exhibitions in Bergamo, which has focused since the 1980s on the city’s centuries-long pictorial tradition, and on the discerning collectors who protected it over the years, ensuring its future with the creation of a museum and an art school. Similarly, the collection of the Pinacoteca Tosio Martinengo includes two works by Raphael, the Angel – an exquisite fragment of The Coronation of Saint Nicholas of Tolentino – and the Christ the Redeemer Blessing, acquired by Paolo Tosio in the first two decades of the nineteenth century. The comparison between Tosio’s Christ the Redeemer Blessing and Lochis’s Saint Sebastian in the Carrara exhibition gives a measure of Raphael’s greatness right from the dazzling years of his youth. The complex theme of his cultural origins will be at the heart of the exhibition promoted by the Accademia Carrara, of which the comparison between the works will be a glittering premiere. The two masterpieces, painted between 1502 and 1505, show the richness and complexity of the cultural background of the young Raphael, an artist capable of astonishing advances.