When Landgrave Wilhelm VIII. of Hessen-Kassel received in 1750 a generous New Year present, the Holy Family with a Lamb, an unknown Raphael on a small wooden panel from Baron Häckel of Frankfurt, of whose art collection Goethe was aware, the outstanding connoisseurship of the Landgrave led him immediately to judge the painting an excellent copy after Raffaelo Santi (1483-1520). As such the picture was neglected by the public as a Renaissance work in the Gallery of old master paintings of the Staatliche Museen Kassel.
It is to the credit of our Italian art expert, Dr. Jürgen M. Lehmann, that he spent many years researching in-depth and within an international framework the art historical and cultural context of the subject-matter of this picture and its numerous derivations, and to have conceived the idea to present his findings in form of a small studio exhibition. The project was promoted by Dr. Ulrich Schmidt, the former Director of the Staatliche Museen Kassel in cooperation with Dr. Veit Loers, Head of the Kunsthalle Museum Fridericianum, but the present book which complements the exhibition in the Museum Fridericianum could only be produced thanks to the support of the private lender, the participating museums and the generous sponsorship of the Nordstern Allgemeine Versicherung AG.
Besides Raphael’s picture of 1504 and the revelatory cartoon from Oxford, all available variants and copies were borrowed. Sadly, despite the efforts of the organizers, the loan of the well-known painting in the Prado, Madrid was refused, so that it could only be exhibited as a photographic reproduction in its original size.
In this way, Dr. Jürgen M. Lehmann, the well known author of the scientific catalogue of Italian paintings at Kassel, assisted by Dr. des. Susan Tipton, has plugged an art historical desideratum and convincingly re-interpreted many details, such as the signatures and the dating of the authentic Raphaels in the private collection and in the Prado.
For me as a Leonardo scholar it was fascinating to see, while following this research, how immensely the young Raphael benefited from the greatest universal genius of the Renaissance shortly after he had experienced in Florence, in October 1504, the influence of Leonardo da Vinci, a generation older than himself. He immediately and faithfully imitated Leonardo’s animated, vibrant figures and his supple technique, including the famous sfumato which accentuates the atmospheric effetct of a distant landscape. May this book impart the joy of discovery to all readers and visitors and convey to them the thrill of researching.
The location of the exhibition adjacent to our ‘120 Masterpieces’ from the Picture Gallery could not have been more appropriate. The Museum Fridericianum was the first purpose-built Continental-European museum, even if not built as a picture gallery. Since its foundation in 1779 it had been planned as a place for historical studies and research projects, as the observatory in the tower demonstrates.
Finally, I want to convey the gratitude to the directorate of the Staatliche Museen Kassel to all those involved in preparing the exhibition, the participating restorers and private lenders as well as to the supportive colleagues of the following institutions: Ashmolean Museum, Oxford; Civici Musei Castello Visconteo, Pavia; Musée des Beaux Arts, Angers; Bayerische Staatsgemälde-sammlungen, Munich, und Kunstsammlungen der Veste Coburg.