The Prophet Isaiah (Raphael)

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The Prophet Isaiah
Raffaello, profeta isaia.jpg
Artist Raphael
Year 1512
Type Fresco
Dimensions 250 cm × 155 cm (98 in × 61 in)
Location Basilica di Sant'Agostino, Rome

The Prophet Isaiah is a fresco located in Basilica di Sant'Agostino, an early Renaissance church in Rome. It is an Italian Renaissance painting, influenced by Michaelangelo's work on the Sistine Chapel ceiling.

Isaiah, a powerful figure, gives the illusion of a three-dimensional character, flanked by putti figures. He carries a Hebrew scroll with his prophecy foretelling the birth of Christ. There is also a message to Saint Anne. Due to wear, Raphael's work has been retouched by other painters over time. In 1960, the fresco was restored to Raphael's vision.[1]

St. Anne Altar[edit]

Madonna with Child and Anna by Andrea Sansovino.jpg

Johann of Goritz (also Gorizius), from Luxembourg, commissioned Raphael to paint the prophet Isaiah in fresco on a pillar in the Basilica di Sant'Agostino.[2] Soon after his arrival in Rome, his name was Latinised to Janus Corycius. He held the office of receiver of requests.[3]

Janus was a patron of the arts. Wishing to leave a mark in Rome, he had a chapel built in the Sant'Agostino basilica, with an altar commissioned in 1512 honoring his patron saint Saint Anne. [3] The altar included this fresco of Isaiah and a marble grouping of Virgin with St. Anne by Andrea Sansovino.[2] The Saint Anne altar was intended as his tomb.[4]

At the dedication of the church, a steady stream of literary friends honored Corycius with verses that were later was editor and publisher of the 1524 book Coryciana by Blosius Palladius, later Bishop of Foligno. The book named 120 poets who contributed verses that became the book.[3]

Michaelangelo influence[edit]

Much comparison is made of the Raphael fresco Prophet Isaiah to the work of Michaelangelo, Ernst Gombrich going as far to suggest that Michaelangelo may have hired Raphael to work on Ezekiel for the Sistine Chapel, which he believes is much more reflective of Raphael than of Michaelangelo. This would have allowed Raphael to both gain influence by Michaelangelo and also contribute to a piece of work on the Sistine Chapel.[5]

Within the Prophet of Isaiah, noted influences by Michaelangelo include:

  • similarity of figural composition
  • Isaiah is self-enclosed
  • the manner in which the scroll is held, in a spiral formula as evolved by Michaelangelo[5]

Legend has it that Corycius complained to Michaelangelo that he had been overcharged for the fresco, to which Michaelangelo responded, "the knee alone is worth the price."[citation needed]


  1. ^ Brenda Harness, Art Historian. "The Prophet Isaiah by Painter Raphael Sanzio". Fine Art Touch. Retrieved March 17, 2011. 
  2. ^ a b Passavant, J (1872). Raphael of Urbino and his father Giovanni Santi. London and New York: MacMillan and Company. p. 109. 
  3. ^ a b c Creighton, M (1897). A History of the Papacy from the Great Schism to the Sack of Rome. 6. London, New York and Bombay: Longmans, Green and Company. p. 201. 
  4. ^ Stinger, C. The Renaissance in Rome. p. 352. 
  5. ^ a b Gombrich, E (1987). Woodfield, R, ed. Reflections on the history of art: views and reviews. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press. p. 93. ISBN 0-520-06189-6.