Vision and the Visionary in Raphael

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Although Raphael has long been recognized as one of the great innovators of visionary painting (images of supernatural phenomena, including apparitions and prophetic visions), the full measure of his achievement in this area has never been taken. Vision and the Visionary in Raphael redresses this oversight by offering an expansive reading of these works within their contemporary artistic and religious contexts. At the center of the book is Raphael's engagement with one of the critical conflicts in the Renaissance understanding of vision. Whereas artistic theory emphasized painting's engagement with the physical world by way of the bodily eyes, religious images were generally intended to inspire their viewers to move from sensible appearances to the use of their spiritual eyes for contemplation of their god. For Raphael and his contemporaries, this double commitment to physical appearances and the spiritual dimensions of the image presented one of the greatest challenges of Renaissance religious art.