Raphael and Music: The Vatican Stanze as Venues for Musical Performances
Anthony M. Cummings
Professor of Music and Coordinator of Italian Studies, Lafayette College
Several spaces in the Vatican Palace decorated by Raphael were venues for musical performances. In one case – the Stanza della Segnatura – the decoration is particularly appropriate to that function: the depiction of Apollo with his viola da braccia evokes the Boëthian tripartition of music into mundana, humana, and organica; Apollo’s playing is a representation of the celestial music imperfectly echoed by the terrestrial music performed below. Other spaces in the palace decorated by Raphael that witnessed music-making during Leo X’s pontificate are considered (such as Leo’s dining room) and contextualized by reference to venues for musical performances that were not painted by Raphael. The music-making that occurred was a kind of multimedia experience, permitted by the momentary redeployment of the spaces toward such ends. Images of the spaces and recordings of the kind of music performed illustrate the episodic fusion of multiple kinds of sense experience: sight, sound, even taste.