On Monday, the students in Merton returned to their studies after a weekend spent in culture and relaxation. A productive morning of lessons led into an afternoon of workshops, before a trip in the evening to the Ashmolean Museum, a jewel of Oxford, for a private night-time viewing of a stunning collection of Raphael’s drawings.
The Ashmolean Museum has long been one of the historical and cultural prizes of the city. Founded in 1677 to house a ‘cabinet of curiosities’ painstakingly collected by the Oxford anthropological enthusiast Elias Ashmole, the museum now contains a vast assortment of brilliant art from across the centuries and across cultures, as well as more artefacts of historical importance than one could properly see and understand in days of exploring the museum’s marble halls.
Last night, the ORA students at Merton were privileged to a private guided tour of the Ashmolean’s latest great exhibition: that of Raphael’s drawings and sketches. Welcomed with a champagne reception, students chatted and mingled among the statues and paintings in one of the adjacent galleries before being shown into the rooms devoted to Raphael. The exhibition is an intimate affair, displaying work by Raphael from different parts of his life, and of many subjects. Raphael’s work had a transformative effect on European art, despite the brevity of his career; and to experience on such a personal level, not distracted by other museum-goers, the private sketches of such a genius was, the students agreed, a marvellous experience.