Raphael Paints his Portrait of Pope Julius II

The Portrait of Pope Julius II is a painting attributed to the Italian High Renaissance painter Raphael.

Three portraits that have been attributed to Raphael of Pope Julius II as an old man exist: in the National Gallery, London, in the Uffizi Gallery, Florence and in the Palazzo Pitti, also Florence. A thorough investigation of the London painting by Cecil Gould and others has proved it to be the original. The version in the Uffizi is now said to be from Raphael's workshop, while that in the Palazzo Pitti has been attributed to Titian by some experts. There is a possible cartoon for the London version in the Palazzo Corsini, Florence, and a red chalk drawing at Chatsworth House.

Pope Julius II gave this painting to the church of Santa Maria del Popolo, where after his death it was displayed on important feast days. In 1591 it was "purloined" from the church by Cardinal Paolo Emilio Sfondrati, the Pope's nephew. He put his collection on the market a few years later, and it was nearly all sold to Cardinal Scipione Borghese. This painting was in the Borghese Collection in 1693, as a small inventory mark at bottom left shows. It presumably left the collection in the 1790s, and was in the Angerstein Collection by 1823, and was acquired by the National Gallery in 1824, so that it can be traced with confidence back to the ownership of the sitter, unlike the other existing versions.

The Pope who had commissioned the pictorial cycles and other works that had so contributed to the artist's fame, is depicted in a portrait "so animated and true to life that it was frightening to behold, as though it were actually alive" (Vasari).