It is a matter of fine judgement which was the greater loss to European culture: the early death of Mozart or that of Raphael. Mozart was thirty-five and in the midst of composing his Requiem, Raphael two years older and embarking on his new career as an architect. Both were already enormously productive, but there is no calculating what we have lost by their abrupt disappearances – not least since both were gentle, obliging, sweet-natured, strangers to jealousy and professional rivalry, and generous to pupils and followers.
The Italian restorer Antonio Forcellino has now celebrated Raphael’s life and career by writing this ebullient book, elegantly translated by Lucinda Byatt. Much of it is an exercise in imagination, for there is no hard evidence for many of his statements. On the other hand the author is ingenious and