- Tommaso was a Renaissance humanist, orator, educated man, and representative of the Roman intellectual elite.
From an early age, he was raised in the court of Lorenzo de’ Medici, who immediately recognized his potential and sent him to Rome, where his two uncles held high ecclesiastical positions in the Vatican. He received the rank of deacon, and in 1510 became prefect of the Apostolic Library. He is also known by the nickname “Phaedra” because he played the lead role in Seneca’s tragedy of the same name.
He is thought to have met Raffaello when the latter was painting the stanze in the Vatican.
In the portrait made by Raffaello he is shown in a red robe with a white belt and a red cap, so that the face stands out against the dark background which was originally a green drape painted in the same bright contrasting colors, a feature characteristic of the portraits of Julius II and Cardinal Bibbiena.
Raffaello placed Tommaso Inghirami in the position of movement in the hand about to write, while at the same time using the open book on the rostrum. Although he surrounds the character with a chosen atmosphere, Raffaello takes a deep look at his authentic human appearance and manages to describe every line of his face with subtle strokes of color and light. This is how you notice the freshly shaved beard, the relaxed chin that touches the edge of the robe, the fleshy hands placed on the paper, and even the strabismus for which he was known.
This portrait (oil on wood) is on display today at the Palatine Gallery in Florence. It was made in Rome around 1512-1513.
There is another version of this portrait that is considered authentic, at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston.
Apart from this portrait, Raffaello also painted Tommaso on the The School of Athens, as the model for Epicurus.