The Raphael Trail, by Joanna Pitman

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The Independent Culture

Passing through the hands of Henry VIII, Charles I, Catherine the Great, and Stalin, a remarkable story lies behind Raphael's exquisite "St George and the Dragon", now in the Washington National Gallery of Art. Unfortunately, this yarn is somewhat over-embroidered by Pitman. Her vision of Raphael's Florence ("wives of rich merchants gossiping like sparrows... scholars in as many shades of black as the jackdaw") is a cinematic cliché, while her account of present-day Greenwich ("a few brave trippers on pleasure boats") is plain wrong. They're not few and they're not brave. CH

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