Nearly five centuries after his death, Raphael’s fame is undiminished. Crowned “prince of painters” by Giorgio Vasari, he inspired other artists for centuries to come. Count Tommaso Inghirami served Pope Julius II as librarian. Raphael knew Inghirami well, which may partially explain the nuanced vitality of the portrait.
According to Henry James, Raphael’s work was “semi-sacred”. While many American collectors failed to acquire authentic examples in a market flooded with copies, this portrait, purchased in 1898, was the first Raphael to reach the United States. Of special importance to Gardner, this painting was the only one to receive a lengthy entry in her handwritten catalogue, The Paintings of Fenway Court, in 1917.