Raphael, The Dream of Scipio or Vision of a Knight, a drawing

Italy, around AD 1504

This drawing in pen and brown ink is a cartoon for a painting by Raphael in the National Gallery, London, probably originally made for the court at Urbino. The edges of the figures in the drawing were pricked with a sharp stylus to allow the design to be transferred to the panel. Black charcoal dust in a bag was banged onto the drawing so that the design came through the holes onto the panel in a series of dots. The knight and parts of the female figures are the most finished, drawn with cross-hatching to show the depth of the shading. The landscape in the background is sketched loosely while the trunk and branches of the tree are in barest outline.

The subject seems to be related to Punica, an epic poem on the Punic War by the Latin poet Silius Italicus. The young Scipio Africanus (236-184 BC) slept beneath a bay tree where he dreamt that he was the subject of a contest between Virtue and Pleasure. On the left, Virtue holds a sword and book, perhaps referring to the knight's hopes as a soldier and scholar, while Pleasure on the right holds a flower for his role as a lover. It was common in courtly literature for a young knight to aspire to be all three of these.

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More information


N. Turner, Italian drawings in the Depa-4 (London, The British Museum Press, 1999)

P. Joannides, The drawings of Raphael (Phaidon, 1983)

J.A Gere and N. Turner, Drawings by Raphael, from the, exh. cat. (London, The British Museum Press, 1983)


Height: 182.000 mm
Width: 214.000 mm

Museum number

PD 1994-5-14-57



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