The Transfiguration, after Raphael
99.2 cm x 63 cm (39 1/16 in. x 24 13/16 in.)
(Naples, 1758 - 1833, Florence)
Medium and Support:
Etching and engraving
Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, Archer M. Huntington Museum Fund, 1989
Morghen’s reputation as one of the last great reproductive engravers is evident in this engraving after Raphael’s last work, the familiar Renaissance masterpiece now in the Vatican. The engraver has captured the shining radiance that reflects onto the figures from the bright cloud that surrounds Christ in Raphael’s interpretation of the Transfiguration. The composition conflates two consecutive incidents from Matthew 17. At the top of the print is the Transfiguration, the occasion when Christ revealed his divine nature to the disciples Peter, James, and John. Christ took the disciples up Mt. Tabor in Galilee and became transfigured: his face shone like the sun and his clothes became dazzling white. After Moses and Elijah appeared on either side of Christ, a voice from heaven said, “This is my son.” The apostles then fell prostrate before the vision. On the bottom of the print appears the event in which the divine healing power of Christ is manifest. Immediately following the descent down the mountain, a father brings his epileptic son to Christ to be cured. Here, one of these apostles gestures toward the earlier vision of Christ above, tying him to the latter narrative below. By looking at Peter at the center of the group of the apostles, a viewer might also be reminded of the healing powers that Peter inherits from Christ.
This is an excellent example of how twentieth-century medical practitioners assist the art historian by interpreting and diagnosing from even the greatest artistic works. By looking at the print, modern doctors have identified the late stage of the seizure the boy is experiencing, locating the exact moment in these narrative events.