Design for the lower left quarter of the "Disputa", ca. 1508–09

In 1508, the still relatively little-known twenty-five-year-old Raphael succeeded in obtaining a substantial commission from Pope Julius II. He was to paint the frescoes in the "Stanza della Segnatura", a newly decorated hall in the Vatican that would serve purposes of papal representation. Raphael carried out this task so convincingly that he quickly rose to become one of the leading artists of the Italian High Renaissance.

The "Stanza della Segnatura" was intended as a library, and its wall paintings represent the various fields of knowledge: theology, philosophy, jurisprudence and poetry. The Disputa fresco visualizes theology as an assembly of saints, priests, scholars and poets in heaven and on earth, engaged in discussing the sacrament of the Eucharist – the transformation of the bread into the body of Christ during the celebration of the mass – in the presence of the Holy Trinity. The drawing in the Städel collection shows the lower left quarter of the scene. Even though the composition was already at such an advanced stage of development, it underwent a number of further changes before the execution of the fresco.

Recognizing the outstanding significance of this sheet – which is not only a virtuoso drawing but also sheds light on the artist’s way of thinking and working – Johann David Passavant purchased it for the Städel in 1850.


Pen and brown ink, partially pricked for transfer
paper partially supplemented
281 x 416 mm