X is for the portrait of Pope Leo X. Some guys have all the luck.

Quick: what is the one thing that every Italian Renaissance man– including Lorenzo the Magnificent, ruler of the Florentine republic— wanted?

To have their son named Pope, of course!

And Lorenzo got his wish!

And on top of that, Lorenzo’s son, known as Pope Leo X, had his portrait painted by Raphael.  Wow, some people really do have all the luck!

Pope Leo X had the good fortune to be born in Florence (in 1475), the second son of il magnifico.  His birthname was Giovanni di Lorenzo de’ Medici.  In Italian families, the eldest son inherited the business or other elite endeavors of the father; the second son went into the church.  Young Giovanni was therefore destined to rise in church hierarchy and, sure enough, was made a cardinale in 1489 at the ripe age of 14. He must have been filled with wisdom at this very mature age.  Yuk, yuk.

Giovanni became Pope (il Papa) Leo X in 1513, and he remained in this most elite office until his death in 1521 at the age of  46.  The church was losing ground during this time and il papa did everything he could think of to stop the losses.  He succeeded in making his nephew the duke of Urbino, but only by leading a costly war which severely damaged papal finances. Some of his cardinals tried to poison him, but he escaped this fate just narrowly.

Leo X is probably best known for granting indulgences to pay for the reconstruction and beautification of the St. Peter’s and the Vatican; for example, he commissioned Raphael to paint what are now known as the Raphael Rooms, which were the central, and largest, works of the painter’s career. One of Raphael’s best known works is The School of Athens in the  Stanza della Segnatura, seen here.

File:Raffael Stanza della Segnatura.jpg

Leo X seemed to have been quite unwilling to accept that the way he conducted church business was not condoned and, as a result, Martin Luther wrote the 95 Theses.  Leo X condemned Luther in his Papal Bull of 1520.  He couldn’t stop the march of reform, however, and the Protestant Reformation succeeded. This pope died in 1521 and is buried in Rome in the church Santa Maria sopra Minerva.  I suspect there is a big reason why he wasn’t buried in St. Peter’s, as were some of his fellow popes.  But, I don’t have an answer for that at this time.

Now, on to Raphael, one of the greatest artists of the Italian Renaissance. Here is a portrait of him as a young man.


Raphael’s father was a court painter and, from a very early age, Raphael showed immense talent.  His artistic ability and connections took him first to Florence and then to Rome.  Of course he knew both Leonardo and Michelangelo.  Pope Leo X kept Raphael busy with commissions for the Vatican, and it therefore comes as no surprise that he as well painted the pontiff’s portrait.  Here it is again:

Here are a few of Raphael’s other portraits, so you can get some sense of what he achieved in his highly realistic treatment of Pope Leo X.

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