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Artists Raphael
Raphael Photo

Raphael

Italian Painter, Printmaker, and Architect

Movement: High Renaissance

Born: March 28, 1483 - Urbino

Died: April 6,1520 - Rome

Raphael Timeline

Quotes

"Leonardo da Vinci promises us heaven. Raphael gives it to us."
Pablo Picasso
"When one is painting, one does not think."
Raphael

"Time is a vindictive bandit to steal the beauty of our former selves."

Synopsis

Alive for only 37 prolific and passionate years, Raphael blazed a comet's trail of painting throughout the apex of the Italian High Renaissance. His true lust for life translated onto the canvas where his skill in presenting the humanist era's ideals of beauty was breathtakingly new. He is, alongside Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo, considered an equal part of the holy trinity of master artists of his time.

Key Ideas

Raphael's prodigiousness in painting albeit his relatively short-lived existence was a result of his training that began when he was just a mere child. From a childhood spent in his painter father's workshop to his adult life running one of the largest workshops of its kind, he garnered a reputation as one of the most productive artists of his time.
The serene and harmonious qualities of Raphael's paintings were regarded as the some of the highest models of the humanist impetus of the time, which sought to explore man's importance in the world through artwork that emphasized supreme beauty.
Raphael not only mastered the signature techniques of High Renaissance art such as sfumato, perspective, precise anatomical correctness, and authentic emotionality and expression, he also incorporated an individual style noted for its clarity, rich color, effortless composition, and grandeur that was distinctly his own.
Although largely known for his paintings, many of which can still be seen in the Vatican Palace where the frescoed Raphael Rooms were the largest work of his career, he was also an architect, printmaker, and expert draftsman. In other words, a true "Renaissance man."
The artist was known, in contrast to one of his biggest rivals Michelangelo, as a man of conviviality, universally popular, and congenial, and a great lover of the ladies. His social ease and amicable personality allowed him acceptance and career opportunities at an advantage over other peers of the time.

Biography

Raphael Photo

Childhood

Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino, was born on April 6, 1483 to Giovanni Santi di Pietro and Magia di Battista di Nicola Ciarla, who came from wealthy merchant families from Urbino and Colbordolo in the Marche Region. At the time, Urbino was a flourishing cultural center, and Raphael's father worked as a painter for Federigo da Montefeltro, the Duke of Urbino, where he was the head of a well-known studio. Raphael was the only child of three to survive infancy. His mother died in 1491 when Raphael was nine years old, and his father remarried to Bernardina, the daughter of a goldsmith, the following year.

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Raphael Biography Continues

Important Art by Raphael

The below artworks are the most important by Raphael - that both overview the major creative periods, and highlight the greatest achievements by the artist.

The Marriage of the Virgin (1504)

The Marriage of the Virgin (1504)

Artwork description & Analysis: This painting shows the marriage between Mary and Joseph. As Joseph places the ring on Mary's finger, one of the two disappointed competing suitors is shown breaking his staff. Joseph's staff however is flowering, symbolizing the belief that all suitors carried wooden staffs, yet only the chosen groom's would bloom. A temple is seen in the background, created in the style of the architect Bramante. The use of vibrant colors and the emotional expressions of the figures add a graceful demeanor to the painting, which emanates a sense of the divine blessing of the scene rather than a mere happy temporal celebration.

Also known as Lo Sposalizio, The Marriage of the Virgin was commissioned by the Albizzini family for the chapel of St. Joseph in the Franciscan church of San Francesco of the Minorities at Città di Castello. The painting was inspired by a panel painted by Raphael's early teacher Perugino of The Marriage of the Holy Virgin and also, his famous fresco of Christ Delivering the Keys to St Peter's. The painting differs from Perugino's treatment though by its use of a more circular composition rather than a horizontal depiction, which was more commonly used in paintings of this period.

This painting represents a key point in the development of Raphael as a painter fusing the artistic style of his master Perugino with his own emerging confidence. We see him begin to integrate his own style with composition, perspective, and the daring use of bright tonal colors, all of which would define his later works.

Importantly too, this painting shows the confidence Raphael now had of proclaiming himself as a painter as it is one of the earliest of his signed works. It also shows his mastery of techniques that were being introduced during the Renaissance such as three-point perspective as we see the figures diminish in proportion as they recede into the painting, and the pavement, which leads us to the temple.

Oil on panel - Pinacteca di Brera, Milan

Disputation of the Holy Sacrament (1510)

Disputation of the Holy Sacrament (1510)

Artwork description & Analysis: This fresco in the Stanza della Segnatura, one of the four Raphael Rooms in the Apolostolic Palace in the Vatican, is one of four paintings in the room which depict separately: philosophy, poetry, theology, and law. The Disputation of the Holy Sacrament represents theology and shows the occupants of a Catholic Church underneath the span of heaven above their sacred altar. The fresco represents Christianity's victory over Philosophy, which is depicted in The School of Athens, the fresco on the opposite wall.

In heaven we see Christ in the center with the Virgin Mary on his right and John the Baptist on his left. God the Father is shown reigning over heaven above Jesus, with Adam to his left, and Jacob to his right. Moses is seen holding the tablets with the ten commandments, and the Holy Spirit is shown at the feet of Jesus. On either side of the Holy Spirit are the four gospels held by cherubs.

On earth are theologians. The original four Doctors of the Church, a title given to Saint Augustine, Pope Gregory I, Saint Jerome, and Saint Ambrose, named in their halos, are seen debating the Transubstantiation; the miraculous conversion of the Eucharistic elements at their consecration into the body and blood of Christ in the earthly form of bread and wine. St Augustine and St Ambrose are seated to the right of the altar and Pope Gregory I and St Jerome to the left. Also present are Pope Julius II, Pope Sixtus IV, Savonarola, and Dante. All together this fresco depicts over 100 figures. In Raphael's rendition The Disputation takes on more than a depiction of the Eucharist. Instead, it becomes a dynamic search by theologians for the truth embodied in the mystery of the Eucharist.

This fresco, painted when Raphael was only 27 years old, represents his first significant commission to redecorate what were to become Pope Julius II's private apartments. Unfortunately, it involved painting over frescos by other important Renaissance painters including Piero della Francesca and Raphael's teacher Perugino. The Stanza della Segnatura was used by Julius II as a library and private office and takes its name from its use later in the sixteenth century as the highest court of the Holy See presided over by the pontiff Segnatura Gratiae et ilustitiae.

Raphael won the commission to paint the four rooms in direct competition with both Michelangelo, who was at the time working on the Sistine Chapel, and Leonardo da Vinci. This is said to have incensed Michelangelo who would later accuse Raphael of plagiarism, spreading rumors that Raphael had stolen into the Sistine Chapel to have a sneak preview of Michelangelo's work. The source of the animosity was however probably no more than that of competition between two extremely talented professionals vying for the favor of the same client.

Fresco - Apolostolic Palace, Vatican City, Rome

The School of Athens (1509-1511)

The School of Athens (1509-1511)

Artwork description & Analysis: This fresco, also in the Stanza della Segnatura, is on the wall opposite the fresco showing The Disputation of the Holy Sacrament.

Although called The School of Athens, the title refers to philosophers from the classical world rather than any particular school of philosophy. The gestures of the philosophers depicted in the fresco have been subject to considerable academic interpretation and debate, however it is not clear how much of their philosophy Raphael would have been familiar with. What is important is the way in which Raphael has gathered all the most famous of the classical philosophers within a marvellous Renaissance building, the architecture of which points to Bramante's designs for the new St Peter's Basilica. Many of the philosophers are recognizable through their iconography, which would have been widely understood at the time and are drawn from busts recovered from archaeological excavations. We see Plato (said to be a portrait of Leonardo painted in homage) and Aristotle in the center carrying their well-known works Timeus and Ethics respectively. Also identifiable are Pythagoras in the foreground, Euclid on the right, Zoroaster holding the heavenly sphere, Ptolemy holding the earthly sphere, and Diogenes on the stairs holding a dish. The scholar leaning over Pythagoras is said to be that of the Arab philosopher Averroes who is credited with bringing the philosophies of Plato and Aristotle to the West.

Legend has it that Raphael poked an artistic dig at his great rival Michelangelo by painting his portrait as the face of the Philosopher Heraclitus, leaning against a block of marble. Heraclitus is often called the weeping philosopher due to the sad nature of his philosophical doctrine, which falls in line with Michelangelo's reputation as a big baby. Also included in the painting is a self-portrait of Raphael wearing a black beret on the right corner of the fresco standing next to fellow-artist and friend Il Sodoma who was one of the artists whose work Raphael was ordered to paint over.

The fresco utilizes many techniques of the Renaissance artists, including the way it invites viewers to enter the space as if they are fully engulfed in the scene in an almost theatrical way. The perspective leads us into the throng of its occupants as if we, too, were engaged in the debate or contemplation. The light from the window in the background of the piece fills the scene, enhancing its three-dimensional solidity. The high vaulted ceiling with a view of the sky gives the feeling that we are entering into the realm of super human thought and activity and increases the sense of awe of being in the company of men so instrumental in shaping our understanding of the world. The coloring is muted to allow no one point of focus. Instead, we see the whole composition as being a world, which exists in a plane of time beyond that which we call our own demonstrating Raphael's great skill in his use of color.

The narrative aspects of the four frescos are perfectly arranged to engage in dialogue with each other and conducive to the intended use of the room as a library.

The School of Athens received both critical and popular attention immediately upon completion and was instrumental in elevating Raphael's public acclaim. This vindicated Pope Julius II's decision to award him the commission, and also laid the foundation for his trust in Raphael in conferring on him the artistic responsibilities that followed.

Fresco - Apostolic Palace, Vatican City

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Influences and Connections

Influences on Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Influenced by Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Raphael
Interactive chart with Raphael's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
View Influences Chart

Artists

Giovanni Santi
Pietro Perugino
Fra Bartolomeo
Donato Bramante
Leonardo da VinciLeonardo da Vinci

Personal Contacts

Pinturicchio
Pope Julius II
Pope Leo X
Baldassare Castiglione

Movements

Early RenaissanceEarly Renaissance

Influences on Artist
Raphael
Raphael
Years Worked: 1500 - 1520
Influenced by Artist

Artists

TitianTitian
RembrandtRembrandt
Pierre-Auguste RenoirPierre-Auguste Renoir
Jean-Auguste-Dominique IngresJean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres

Personal Contacts

Agostino Chigi
Cardinal Bernardo Dovizi Bibbiena
Il Sodoma

Movements

High RenaissanceHigh Renaissance
MannerismMannerism

Useful Resources on Raphael

Videos

Books

Websites

Articles

More

The books and articles below constitute a bibliography of the sources used in the writing of this page. These also suggest some accessible resources for further research, especially ones that can be found and purchased via the internet.

biography

Raphael: A Passionate Life Recomended resource

By Antonio Forcellino

Raphael

By Bette Talvacchia

Raphael

By Achim Gnann

Raphael

By Estelle M Hurll

More Interesting Books about Raphael
Raphael's Early Work in the National Gallery: Paintings before Rome

By Ashok Roy, Marika Spring and Carol Plazzotta
National Gallery Technical Bulletin
Vol 25, 2004

Raphael: The Drawings review - a magnificent, mind-opening exhibition

By Jonathan Jones
The Guardian
May 30, 2017

Raphael: worn out by love, or work?

By James Hall
Times Literary Supplement (TLS)
January 9, 2013

Raphael: Poetry in Painting at the Pushkin Museum

By Maria D'Alessandro
The Moscow Times
September 16, 2016

More Interesting Articles about Raphael
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Cite this page

Content compiled and written by Zaid S Sethi

Edited and revised, with Synopsis and Key Ideas added by Kimberly Nichols

" Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Zaid S Sethi
Edited and revised, with Synopsis and Key Ideas added by Kimberly Nichols
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