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Raphael (Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino) ~ Self-Portrait, c.1499

Raphael Sanzio First Rock Star of Renaissance.

Raphael Early Years.

Raphael Sanzio da Urbino, more commonly known as Raphael, was a renowned Italian painter and architect during the High Renaissance period. He was born on April 6, 1483, in Urbino, Italy, and came from a family with a rich background in the arts and humanities. His father, Giovanni Santi, was a court painter for the Duke of Urbino and a poet. Unfortunately, Giovanni passed away in 1494 when Raphael was just 11 years old. However, during his lifetime, he introduced his son to the world of humanistic philosophy.

Raphael’s mother, Magia di Battista Ciarla, played a significant role in his early life, nurturing his talents and encouraging his interest in art. Unfortunately, she passed away when he was just eight years old. Raphael had two half-brothers, one of whom was named Bartolomeo and became a painter. However, Bartolomeo’s works are not as well-known as those of Raphael. Bartolomeo’s portfolio includes religious paintings and portraits.

Raphael’s initial artistic education was received from his father and local artists in Urbino. His father’s connections and expertise granted him valuable opportunities to refine his artistic skills from an early age. During this period, Raphael developed a profound admiration for classical art and literature that later influenced his work.

Years in Perigoa

The earliest known documentation of Raphael’s artistic work dates back to December 10, 1500, at Perigoa. The young painter, who was already known as a “master,” was contracted to assist in painting an altarpiece. The piece was to be completed by September 13, 1502.

Raphael became a member of the Umbrian master Pietro Perugino‘s team, who completed the frescoes in the Collegio del Cambio at Perugia between 1498 and 1500. During this time, he learned many techniques of fresco making and was greatly influenced by Perugino’s style.

The Giving of the Keys to St. Peter” is a painting that was created by Perugino between 1481 and 1482. It was made for the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican Palace. Raphael was inspired by this painting, and it influenced his first significant work, “The Marriage of the Virgin“, which he painted in 1504. Perugino’s influence can be seen in the way the perspectives are emphasized, the relationships between the figures and the architecture are graded, and the figures are depicted with a lyrical sweetness.

In 1501 and 1503, Raphael was commissioned to paint the Coronation of the Virgin for the Oddi Chapel in San Francesco, Perugia. According to Vasari, Raphael accompanied the Perugian painter Bernardino Pinturicchio to Siena, and later went to Florence.

Years in Florence

During his time in Florence, Raphael was taught by some of the most famous artists of the High Renaissance, namely Leonardo and Michelangelo. He was also influenced by the works of Fra Bartolommeo, who was a master of the High Renaissance, and Masaccio, who was known for pioneering naturalism in the early Renaissance and moving away from the Gothic style. Between 1505 and 1507, Raphael created several notable works, including a series of Madonnas such as The Madonna of the Goldfinch (c. 1505), the Madonna del Prato (c. 1505), the Esterházy Madonna (c. 1505–07), and La Belle Jardinière (c. 1507), which show the influence of Leonardo.

In 1507, Raphael was given the task of painting the Deposition of Christ. In this artwork, he aimed to learn from Michelangelo about the expressive potential of human anatomy. However, unlike Leonardo and Michelangelo, who were both known for their dark intensity and excitement in their paintings, Raphael wanted to develop a more peaceful and outgoing style.

Years in Rome.

Raphael was summoned to Rome in late 1508 by Pope Julius II, as recommended by the architect Donato Bramante. He remained in Rome for the last 12 years of his life and was known for his good looks, charisma and courteous manners, earning him the title “the prince of painters.”

When Raphael first arrived in the city, his initial task was to create a cycle of frescoes for the Vatican papal apartments where Julius II himself resided and worked. These rooms are famously known as the Stanze. The Stanza della Segnatura was decorated by Raphael from 1508 to 1511, while the Stanza d’Eliodoro was decorated by him between 1512 and 1514. On the other hand, the frescoes in the Stanza dell’Incendio, which were primarily designed by Raphael, were executed by his assistants and pupils from 1514 to 1517.

Raphael
Stanza della Segnatura (“Room of the Signatura”), Raphael Rooms, Apostolic Palace, Vatican City

Raphael’s “School of Athens” is one of his most renowned frescoes, which he painted in the Vatican Palace between 1509 and 1511. This masterpiece portrays his expertise in perspective, composition, and classical themes. The painting depicts an assembly of ancient Greek philosophers and scholars, featuring Plato and Aristotle, who symbolize the pursuit of knowledge and wisdom.

Raphael’s “Madonna del Prato” (Madonna of the Meadow) is another iconic work of his. It portrays the Virgin Mary with infant Jesus and John the Baptist in a serene outdoor setting. The painting is a remarkable example of Raphael’s ability to convey emotions, beauty, and harmony in his compositions. Some of his other notable works include “The Sistine Madonna” and “The Transfiguration.” works: “The Sistine Madonna” and “The Transfiguration.”

Raphael Sanzio da Urbino
Raffaello Sanzio, Madonna del prato, 1506, olio su tavola, Vienna, Kunsthinstorisches Museum

Following the death of Julius II, Pope Leo X asked Raphael to create ten large tapestries for the walls of the Sistine Chapel. By 1516, seven of the full-size preparatory drawings, known as cartoons, were completed. The tapestries themselves were then woven and hung in the chapel by 1519. These cartoons depict Christ’s Charge to Peter, The Miraculous Draught of Fishes, The Death of Ananias, The Healing of the Lame Man, The Blinding of Elymas, The Sacrifice at Lystra, and St. Paul Preaching at Athens.

1514 Leo X chose him to work on the basilica of St. Peter’s alongside Bramante; when Bramante died later that year, Raphael assumed the direction of the work, transforming the plans of the church from a Greek, or radial, to a Latin, or longitudinal, design.

Raphael’s last masterpiece is the Transfiguration (commissioned by Giulio Cardinal de’ Medici in 1517), which depicts the Transfiguration of Christ), an enormous altarpiece unfinished at his death and completed by his assistant Giulio Romano

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The Transfiguration is the last painting by the Italian High Renaissance master Raphael. Cardinal Giulio de Medici – who later became Pope Clement VII (in office: 1523–1534)

What Set Raphael Apart?

His ability to blend classical ideals with emotional depth and naturalism set Raphael apart from his contemporaries. His works exuded a sense of balance, harmony, perspective, and beauty. His work exudes youthful freshness and the ability to control the elements, captivating viewers and setting him apart as a master artist of his time.

Early Death.

Sadly, Raphael’s life was cut short at the young age of 37 on April 6, 1520, due to pneumonia or an infection. His early death ended a promising career and left a void in the art world. His funeral mass was held at the Vatican, where his Transfiguration painting was placed at the head of the bier. He was buried in the Pantheon in Rome.

Final words.

“Although Raphael’s life was tragically brief, his artistic legacy endures through his timeless works, which continue to inspire and influence artists to this day. His contributions to art have secured his place among history’s most celebrated and influential artists, captivating audiences around the globe.”

Sibel Meydan Johnson

Born in Turkey, Sibel Meydan Johnson lived and studied in Mons Belgium most of her life. She graduated with honors with a major in Liberal Arts. In 1990 Sibel left her hometown for New York City. She worked for several years as a production assistant for " En Plein Air Masters" one of the first online plein air artists mentor programs then as director of production for Brush With Life TV’s series on visual art. Today Sibel is an autodidact painter, Freelance writer specializing in art and the business of art. Mother and wife, she is a full-time artist. Sibel's art captures and brings forth the hidden emotion of his subjects and evoke a sense of curiosity and introspection pushing the boundaries of creativity and expression, her work often combines elements of abstraction and realism, creating a unique and captivating visual experience that sometimes disturb the viewers.