Friedrich Wilhelm Bollinger: Der göttliche Raphael, Kupferstich, in: Wilhelm Heinrich Wackenroder, Herzenergießungen eines kunstliebenden Klosterbruders, Berlin 1797, Titelkupfer
Isaia da Pisa: Grabplatte des Fra Angelico, 1455. S. Maria sopra Minerva, Rom
Italienisch, 16. Jahrhundert: Bildnis des Michelangelo, ca. 1568, Holzschnitt, in: Giorgio Vasari, Le Vite de’ più eccellenti pittori, scultori et architettori, scritte e di nuovo ampliate da Giorgio Vasari con i ritratti loro e con l'aggiunta delle vite de’ vivi e de’ morti dall’anno 1550 infino al 1567, Florenz 1568, 3 Bde., Bd. 3, S. 134
Franz Pforr has grouped a triumvirate of Italian Renaissance artists on a cumulus cloud like an image of saints. Making careful use of the finest hatching, he modelled their three-dimensional forms and thus retained the balanced clarity of his drawing. Composed like set pieces, the figures resemble immovable as statues. On the left is the youthful, confident Raphael; lost in pious meditation in the centre stands Fra Angelico; and the aged Michelangelo is shown seated, melancholy and immersed in reverie. As representatives of an artistic programme, they hover high above a view of Rome with its imposing architecture of the Vatican, St Peter's Basilica and the Castel Sant'Angelo.
Pforr rejected the doctrines of the academy and in 1809 the young artist became one of the co-founders of the "Brotherhood of St Luke" in Vienna. In the spring of 1810 the "Brothers" set off for Italy and travelled in the footsteps of Dürer via Venice to Rome, where they lived as a community in the cells of the former monastery of San Isidoro. At the Vatican they were able to admire the frescos by the three artists portrayed here. Pforr will also have visited the only Gothic church in Rome, Santa Maria sopra Minerva. Here, he saw Michelangelo's marble statue of the 'Risen Christ' with the Cross (1521) and also the tombstone of Fra Angelico, whose likeness of the painter largely served as a model for the figure shown here. Raphael's face, by contrast, was based on a copper engraving in the 'Herzensergießungen eines kunstliebenden Klosterbruders' (1797). This programmatic text by W.H. Wackenroder had a considerable influence on the ideas of the Nazarene art movement. Directed towards German art of the time, it demanded sensitivity and new religious experience. The text also evinced a great reverence for Dürer, which Pforr shared to a high degree, described the longing for Italy and collected descriptions of the lives of famous Italian artists.
Pforr's pencil drawing is outstanding both in style and content and can be seen as a vivid expression of will and the hope that a new art could be created by fusing German and Italian traditions. After the artist's early death the work passed into the ownership of Johann David Passavant, a friend of Pforr's since youth. Having trained as a painter, Passavant lived in the circle of the Nazarenes in Rome between 1817 and 1824. The historian and art scholar was appointed inspector of the Städelsches Kunstinstitut in 1840. In his will he bequeathed an unparalleled collection of drawings by Franz Pforr to the museum.
Johann David Passavant's (1787-1861) biography was an unusual one. Originally trained as a merchant in Frankfurt, he developed from 1817 on into a Nazarene painter and eventually became a co-founder of a science-oriented art history. His work on 'Rafael von Urbino und sein Vater Giovanni Santi', published in 1839, is regarded as a cornerstone of art research. The author dedicated the book to the "venerable administration" of the Städel, which had supported the research undertaking and the printing. Passavant had long cultivated close links with the Städelsches Kunstinstitut and had advised it on its art purchases since 1817. He eventually became its gallery inspector in 1840. The artist and art scholar also established his own small private collection. During his lifetime he bequeathed individual artworks to the Städel, and further objects followed in his will in 1861.