Städel shows off its ‘new’ portrait by Raphael

The painting came up for sale at auction in 2007 in Vienna, where it was catalogued as being by an “imitator” of Raphael


A newly discovered third version of Raphael’s Portrait of Julius II has gone on show at the Städel Museum in Frankfurt. The prime version, dating to 1511-12, is in London’s National Gallery, and a copy by the master and his workshop is in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.

The Frankfurt painting came up for sale at auction in 2007 in Vienna, where it was catalogued as being by an “imitator” of Raphael. It failed to sell, and was later bought by the Swiss-based Ellermann collection; The Art Newspaper can reveal that the collection paid €10,400. Further investigations by the buyer suggested that the work was at least partly by the master, and the Städel bought it three years ago. A spokesman for the museum said that it had paid a sum that was “not a Raphael price”.

The Städel now attributes the portrait to “Raphael and workshop”.

Infra-red images show changes, particularly to the Pope’s arms and the throne, that suggest it is not a copy. Cleaning the painting has revealed the high quality of its artistic execution.

Jochen Sander, a curator at the museum, argues that the painting represents Raphael’s first version of the work, and that it served as the model for a later copy (1545-46) by Titian. The Frankfurt portrait depicts Julius II from a slightly different angle to the version in London. Its provenance can only be traced back to 1905, when it was in a Paris collection, but it may have been sold in the French capital in 1826 by a descendant of Julius II’s younger brother.

Having been conserved, the work is now on display, with the Uffizi version and Titian’s copy (from the Palazzo Pitti, Florence), until 2 February 2014. The original could not be borrowed from London for conservation reasons.

Appeared in The Art Newspaper Archive, 252 December 2013