Portrait of Pope Julius II, 1511 – 12

In the summer of 1511, Pope Julius II was in need of new, up-to-date portraits. The nearly seventy-year-old “papa terrible” – as he was respectfully dubbed by his opponents – had just recovered from a severe illness, but many doubted whether he was really well enough to administer his office.

The politically significant commission for a new portrait went to Raphael, who was already busy working on the decorations of the papal apartments, the Stanze, in the Vatican. There he had already portrayed Julius in the role of Pope Gregory IX in an official audience scene, clad in liturgical garb, complete with cope and tiara, and surrounded by numerous courtiers. His likeness of the pope in the panel painting is much more personal and direct. As viewers, we find ourselves in the role of the supplicant during a private audience with the pope. The aged Julius presents himself awe-inspiringly as the Pontifex Maximus, the Piscatory Ring and other fineries on his fingers, and a cloth in his hand, intended to allude to the ceremonial textile with which the counsels and emperors of antiquity opened the circus games. With this papal portrait, Raphael established a pictorial tradition for the depiction of high-ranking clergymen which was to retain its validity for centuries.

105.6 × 78.5 cm
Inv. No. 2337