Raphael’s “The Three Graces” Decoded

In “Analysis: Raphael’s The Three Graces,” published in June, 2009 and expanded in December, 2010, information was shared about our analysis of Raphael’s painting: The Three Graces, but the fullness of that analysis was withheld pending publication in an art magazine or book on Noetitek™. Rather than continue withholding the information from our frequent and loyal readers, the pertinent extract from our larger thesis is presented below, shortened for this post, including removal of the citation of sources drawn upon in our research into the life and works of Raffaello Sanzio (Raphael):

“Raphael had a mystical, metaphysical, and mysterious side that has been largely unexplored by modern day authors who prefer to study the towering polymath: Leonardo da Vinci. One way to define metaphysics is to call it the nonreligious aspect of spirituality, the aspect that sees the sacredness that permeates the secular, the aspect that contains eternal qualities seeking expression through the temporal. As if employing a sixth sense, Raphael saw beyond what the ordinary eye sees. This ability to glimpse and grasp the sacred and eternal enabled him to heighten the illusory sense of aliveness beyond the lifelikeness of Classicism.

“One of Raphael’s most powerful early works, which displays the high level of his occult knowledge at the age of seventeen, is the beautiful painting titled, The Three Graces. This is a work that reveals Raphael’s study of metaphysical principles as developed over earlier centuries by men such as Plato, Aristotle, and Pythagoras. The Three Graces were not Raphael’s invention; in fact, the basic design of the painting was not original either. The Three Graces date back to Greek mythology. They were believed to bring good fortune to artists and poets, to ensure their success. These goddesses were known by various names but were always depicted together, standing in a subtle loop, sometimes accompanied by a cupid-like symbol of Venus. The loop is not circular but an occultist would know that these goddesses were creating a symbol of the imperfect cyclical patterns of Nature’s movements. Raphael’s insight is expressed by having each Grace hold a small globe—a symbolic egg. The necklaces have a reddish color too, with beads and different lengths to symbolize the days and varying stages of ‘grace’ within the menstrual cycle; the symbolism is confirmed by the absence of a necklace from the figure with her pelvis wrapped. Realizing that the three figures represent the embodiment of Venus, Raphael did not symbolize Venus separately. In addition, he used two colors: shades of blue for the sky and water, and ruddy browns, reluctant reds, for hair and earth; he, like Leonardo, used red to depict the physical realm. Red arteries and bluish veins were left to be inferred by the initiated viewer who needed no reminder that the body is a bridge between the upper and lower worlds, the metaphysical and physical. Their ‘children of God’ were immortal inhabitants of mortal bodies.

“Such thinking was, of course, perceived as blasphemy by the Holy Roman Church, which preached that Jesus Christ was the Only Begotten Son of God, but artists enlightened by a gnosis imparted through Mystery Schools, like the one at Athens, perceived what they believed to be the secret truth of a higher whole-liness. They protected and preserved their truth in subtle ways that allowed for safe conveyance in public and for profound communications among their initiated patrons. The metaphysical knowledge of initiated mathematicians, like Pythagoras, was obviously known to Raphael because one can ‘do the math’ of numerology on this painting of The Three Graces and show the intention to pay tribute to Venus, the icon for passion, for erotic love, the universal Principle relating to the number six. The six is in evidence in numerous subtle ways in this painting. For example, the number that represents red is one and the number that represents blue is five, which add to six. Using a form of occult addition, ‘a three’ is a disguised six (1+2+3=6). The numbers three and six also have a cyclical relationship through a continuous summing of the digits: (3=1+2+3=6; 1+2+3+4+5+6=21; 2+1=3). Unlike earlier renderings of The Three Graces, Raphael improved the occult quality by having all of the arms form V-shapes, which had been used in earlier artworks revering Venus, and by adding the symbolic necklaces and orbs; the Moon, often associated with the menstrual cycle, has a periodicity of thirty days (3+0=3; 1+2+3=6) when measured from one phase to the next similar phase and rounded-up about eleven hours, or it can be measured as one elliptical orbit of 27.3 days (2+7+3=12; 1+2=3; 1+2+3=6). The ‘V’ is also a feminine symbol, as the ‘I’ is a male symbol; the two, when added together as Roman numerals, add to another six. There is also a connection between Venus, the goddess, and the planet Venus; among astrologers, the planet Venus relates to balance and beauty. The entire human body is, of course, a feast of V-shapes, a fact that holds true in two and three dimensions, as well as higher ones.

“Is there evidence that Raphael was more in love with lust than with any particular woman? Yes. Many stories were told about Raphael’s love affairs and his need for almost constant female companionship. One story tells of how he was so attached to a certain woman that he could not and would not work unless she was beside him, even ‘on the scaffolding where he was painting.’ In his own words, written in a letter to his uncle, Raphael said, ‘…in the matter of marriage, I will tell you that… I am most happy, and thank God continually, that I took her not, nor any other, wherein I was wiser than you, who would have given her to me…’ It would be hard to misread that message and not be saddened to see that this man who imposed so much beauty and harmony and dignity onto two-dimensional surfaces was unwilling or unable to find true intimacy in three dimensions: in actual Life, the next step beyond lifelikeness and aliveness.

“Seven years after Raphael’s death, reverence for the ideals of Humanistic Neoplatonism, which had been so highly elevated during his lifetime, began to decline with the ‘sack of Rome’ in 1527. The ‘potential dignity of man’ and the idea of beauty as meaning ‘the harmony of all parts’ were ideas shoved into the future. What breakthrough in perception will it take to allow that future to arrive?”


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