Raphael Biography, Raphael Paintings, Raphael Art and Raphael Quotes

Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino


Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino (1483-1520), more commonly referred to as Raphael, was an Italian architect and painter during the High Renaissance. Raphael was very prolific and although he died at the age of 37 he left behind an impressive body of work. Along with Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael is considered one of the Great Masters of the Renaissance.

Born in 1483 in the small artistic centre of Urbino, Raphael’s father had been a court painter and poet for the Duke of Urbino. Raphael developed excellent social skills because he grew up in the small court’s inner circle, which were an asset in his life and he continued to mix easily with the highest social circles throughout his career.
Raphael was orphaned at age eleven, and while his paternal uncle Bartolomeo was his guardian, he probably lived with his stepmother when not apprenticing with a master. Raphael exhibited his great talent early on, as evidenced by a beautiful self-portrait he drew in his teenage years. Raphael worked under Umbrian master Pietro Perugino and they share many similar techniques as well as being stylistically similar. Raphael was an incredibly talented sponge of a painter, absorbing techniques and styles from many different sources. In his early works with Perugino it is almost impossible to tell where one painters work ends and the other begins, as he was able to completely immerse himself in his teacher’s style.

Raphael finished his training in 1501 and received his first commissioned work, the Baronci altarpiece, that same year. He followed this with more commissions from churches and also began to paint cabinet paintings and portraits, becoming much in demand very early in his career. Although Raphael travelled much of his adult life, he spent a good period of time in Florence, particularly from 1504-1508, where he was greatly influenced by Leonardo, who also lived in the great artistic city from 1500-1506. Raphael’s works remained predominantly tranquil, but did adopt a dynamism and complexity that they had been missing previously. Raphael was thirty years younger than Leonardo and eight years younger than Michelangelo and he was influenced by both artists at different times in his career. Michelangelo keenly disliked both of the other Great Masters; even though he had to work in close proximity to Raphael they never became friends.

Raphael moved to Rome by the end of 1508 and stayed there for the remainder of his life, he was soon given the commission of what was to be the Pope’s personal library at the Vatican Palace, with Michelangelo working nearby on the Sistine Chapel. Raphael painted three rooms in the Vatican, the most famous of which is the Stanza della Segnatura, which houses The School of Athens, the Disputa and The Parnarssus. The School of Athens is the most famous fresco in the Stanze di Raffaello rooms in the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican. It has long been regarded as "Raphael‘s masterpiece and the perfect embodiment of the classical spirit of the High Renaissance". The four walls of the Stanze depict themes of knowledge and the figures exemplify Philosophy, Poetry, Law and Theology. Raphael’s work in the first two rooms completed is incredible, but the third room, which was completed after his death, lacks the discipline and attention to detail for which Raphael is so celebrated.

Raphael was secretly allowed to view Michelangelo’s work on the Sistine Chapel and was influenced by it during his painting at the Vatican, Michelangelo complained and accused Raphael of plagiarism, but his work in the Vatican rooms in still very much in Raphael’s own style. Both Masters were considered supreme and their works the greatest among the art of the High Renaissance. While the Vatican did occupy most of Raphael’s time, he also painted portraits and decorative frescos for some of the most important people in 16th century Europe.

Raphael had the largest workshop of an Old Master, with almost 50 apprentices and pupils, including many established masters. Raphael was also a talented architect and was, for a time, the most in demand architect in Rome. He designed the Chingi Chapel for one of his many patrons, Agostino Chingi, who was the papal treasurer. He was also an incredibly talented and prolific draftsman, leaving behind over 400 detailed drawings. Although never a printmaker himself, Raphael joined with Marcantonio Raimondi to produce Raphael’s designs as engravings, including The Judgement of Paris and Massacre of the Innocents, which helped the rise in popularity of reproductive prints in Europe.

Raphael never married but was reputed to have many affairs, the main one being with Margherita Luti, whom he portrayed in La Fornarina. At the young age of 37, Raphael fell incredibly ill and after suffering for 15 days, during which time he put his affairs in order and received the last rites, died on April 6, 1520. His funeral was very grand, drawing large crowds and much fanfare. Raphael was buried at the Pantheon in Rome in accordance with his wishes.

While being greatly admired by his contemporaries, Raphael had less influence than Michelangelo. Although his works have continuously been studied and commended, it was during the period of the late 17th-19th centuries that he was the most celebrated and had the most influence, where his perfect balance and serenity were appreciated most. Raphael left behind a legacy of serene figures, beautiful portraiture and an effortless clarity of form. Known as the “Prince of Painters”, one can only speculate on what he would have been able to accomplish if given the long lifespan of Michelangelo and Leonardo. What he did achieve in his brief lifetime was so brilliant and influential that his great legacy is impressive and assured.

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