A very young Raphael, still in his father’s workshop, collaborated in the realization of the Gonfalone del Corpus Domini of Gubbio, commissioned by the Gubbio brotherhood to Giovanni Santi.
This is what emerged from the last restoration to which the work was subjected, unfortunately significantly damaged, now exhibited in the splendid church of Santa Maria dei Laici (known as “dei Bianchi”) in Gubbio.
The work turned out to be a banner (previously it was believed to be a painting) only at the time of its restoration in 2001: the hidden face of the banner, the most damaged due to a lining to which it had been subjected perhaps precisely for its already compromised conditions, was the one that aroused the greatest interest on the part of restorers and professionals. The iconography is repeated, albeit with some differences, on both sides: the standing Christ, blessing, supports the cross while on its sides are depicted St. Francis and St. Ubaldo, patron saint of the city, in the act of gathering in a chalice the blood that flows from the side of Christ; three angels hold up a cloth that acts as a background to the figure of our Lord, on the sides of which passages of the landscape can be seen.
Although, in fact, the iconography is the same, a higher pictorial level and a monogram that is repeated many times, by way of decoration, on the cope of Sant’Ubaldo has been recognized in the unknown side of the work.
This monogram, where the letters RAPH V (Raphael Urbinas) can be recognized, confirms the presence of Raphael in the execution of the work, a thesis also supported by other clues such as the use of color, similar to other works created by him such as the representation of the angel on the right, as well as other stylistic refinements that recall the Flemish taste for details of artists close to him such as his fellow citizen Timoteo Viti. In the adolescent face of an angel, the portrait of a young Raphael was then recognized.
Gubbio was part of the duchy of Montefeltro, whose capital was Urbino, the birthplace of Raphael and where his father had his workshop. A brotherhood of Corpus Domini was also present in Urbino (perhaps linked to that of Gubbio) of which Giovanni Santi was the prior for years.
The banner was made on a light linen cloth and probably suffered serious damage already in ancient times, so much so that it was extensively repainted and then the most damaged side was covered.
During the restoration, the repaintings and dirt were patiently removed until reaching the original pictorial layer which gave us, albeit partially, another piece on the history and production of the incomparable Urbino painter.
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