Ajax and Cassandra by Raphael

I saw this drawing when I visited the metalpoint exhibition at the British Museum. I was really quite taken with it, the way in which Raphael has told the story. This is from the Greek myth where Ajax the Lesser abducts Cassandra from the temple of Athena and rapes her. The thing that struck me about the drawing was the way Raphael had conveyed the power of the scene – Ajax pulling Cassandra away while she clings to the statue of Athena and also the look of terror on Cassandra’s face.

I visited this exhibition shortly after I had been to the V&A to see the Raphael cartoons. The difference in scale is huge and the technical difficulties of the different techniques must have been very challenging. It was interesting to compare this drawing with the Sacrifice at Lystra. The main factor they both had in common was how Raphael had represented the human form. I see the twisted pose and rendering of the executioner in Lystra reflected in Ajax. In both these cases Raphael has portrayed the power and energy of the main character through pose and rendering of musculature.

I also learned all about metalpoint drawings from the British Museum exhibition, a technique that I knew nothing about before my visit.

My notes on the drawing can be found here: Raphael Ajax and Cassandra