Click on the paintings – they are magnificent!
Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino, or Raphael (1483 –1520 was an Italian painter and architect of the High Renaissance. With Michaelangelo and Leonardo da Vince, he forms the traditional trinity of the greatest artists of that period. His artistic contribution is the clarity of his painting and the ease of composition, with a visual ideal of humanity. Vasari, in his Lives of the Painters, called him the ‘Prince of Painters.”
Urbino, at the time of Raphael’s birth, was a cultural center for the Arts. Raphael’s father, Giovanni Santi, was a painter for the Duke of Urbino and taught the young Raphael basic painting techniques.
Because of this, he was able to experience the intellectual life of the court and the principles of humanistic philosophy. Giovanni died suddenly when Raphael was eleven, and his son took over the task of managing his father’s workshop. He became Urbino’s leading painter at age twelve and quickly surpassed his father.
In 1500, the master painter Perugino invited Raphael to become his apprentice in Perugia, where where he was working on frescoes at the Collegio del Cambia. During the next four year, Raphael gained knowledge and hands-on experience, as well as developing his own unique style. The Three Graces (circa 1503) and The Knight’s Dream (1504) date from this time.
By the time he was 21, Raphael had moved to Florence, where he was exposed to, and influenced by, the work of Michelangelo and Da Vinci. Studying the details of their work, Raphael began to develop an even more intricate and expressive personal style. From 1504 through 1507, Raphael painted a series of Madonnas, evocative of da Vince, culminating in 1507 with La Belle Jardine. That same year, he created his most ambitious work in Florence, the Entombment, evocative of the ideas of Michaelangelo.
Raphael moved to Rome in 1508, and his last twelve years were both hectic and triumphant, working for two Popes and their associates. He became an enormously productive painter, running a large workshop.
The four Raphael Rooms in the papal apartments of the Vatican Palace are famous for their grand fresco sequence, painted by Raphael and his workshop. Note the excellent use of perspective,
taught to Raphael by his father, who studied the work of Mantagna. Raphael painted an additional fresco cycle for the Vatican, but those in the Raphael Rooms are considered the best.
He also produced another successful series of Madonna paintings, the famed Madonna of the Chair and one of my favorites, the Madonna with the Goldfinch.
By the time Raphael was working on his largest painting on canvas, The Transfiguration, he had begun to work on architecture. The pope hired Raphael as his chief architect in 1515. With this commission, he designed Rome’s Santa Maria del Popolo Chapel, various other chapels within Saint Peter’s new basilica and also palaces, incorporating ornamental details that would define the architecture of the late Renaissance and early Baroque periods.
Raphael died suddenly on his 37th birthday. His funeral Mass was held at the Vatican and his body interred at the Pantheon.
Despite his early death, Raphael left a large body of work . Michelangelo’s influence overshadowed his until the 18th and 19th centuries, when Raphael’s more serene and harmonious qualities again led him to be regarded as the leading artistic figure of Italian High Renaissance classicism.