Raphael

This article is about the Renaissance artist. For other uses, please see Raphael (disambiguation).
Raphael Sanzio

Self-portrait by Raphael
Birth name Raffaello Sanzio
Born April 6, 1483
Urbino, Italy
Died April 6, 1520
Nationality Italian
Field Painting
Training Perugino
Movement Renaissance

Raphael or Raffaello (April 6, 1483 – April 6, 1520) was an Italian master painter and architect of the Florentine school in High Renaissance, celebrated for the perfection and grace of his paintings. He was also called Raffaello Sanzio, Raffaello Santi, Raffaello da Urbino or Rafael Sanzio da Urbino.

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Early life and work

Raphael was born in Urbino.

The surname Sanzio derives from the latinization of the Italian, Santi, into Santius (also, when signing solely using his baptismal name, "Raphael"). His father, Giovanni Santi, was also a painter in the court of Urbino.

In 1491, his mother Màgia died; his father died on August 1, 1494, having already remarried. Thus orphaned at eleven, Raphael was entrusted to his uncle Bartolomeo, a priest. He had already shown talent, according to Giorgio Vasari - he tells that since childhood Raphael had been "a great help to his father". His father's workshop continued and probably together with his stepmother, Raphael evidently played a part in managing it from a very early age. He is described as a "master" in 1501. In Urbino he came into contact with the works of Uccello and Signorelli. According to Vasari, his father placed him in Perugino's workshop as an apprentice "despite the tears of his mother"; the subsequent influence of Perugino on Raphael's early work is most obvious. The evidence of an apprenticeship comes only from Vasari, and has been disputed. But most modern historians agree that Raphael worked as an assistant to Perugino from around 1500.

His first documented work was an altarpiece for the church of San Nicola of Tolentino in Città di Castello, a town halfway between Perugia and Urbino. It was ordered in 1500 and finished in 1501 (it was later seriously damaged during an earthquake in 1789 and today only fragments of it remain). In the following years he painted works for other churches there (like the Wedding of the Virgin, today in the Brera) and for Perugia.

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Florence

In 1504 he went to Florence, where he studied the work of Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. He spent almost four years there (the so-called "Florentine period"), but continued to travel to and work in other places (Perugia, Urbino and perhaps also Rome). He made friends with the local painters, particularly Fra Bartolomeo, who influenced him to discard the thin, graceful style of Perugino for more grandiose and powerful forms.

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Rome

At the end of 1508, he moved to Rome and was immediately commissioned by Julius II to paint some of the rooms at his palace at the Vatican. This marked a turning point - he was only twenty-five years old, an artist in formation, and had not received commissions of such importance and prestige. He well exploited the situation, and remained almost exclusively in the service of Julius and his successor Leo X.

In 1514 he was named architect of the new St Peter's. Much of his work there was altered or demolished after his death, but he designed other buildings, and for a short time was both the most important architect and painter in Rome. In 1515 he was entrusted with the preservation and recording of the Vatican collections of ancient sculpture.

After his arrival in Rome, he devoted his efforts to the great Vatican projects, although he still painted portraits of his two main patrons, the popes Julius II and his successor Leo X, the latter portrait considered one of his finest.

Sybils, fresco in the church of Santa Maria della Pace in Rome.
Sybils, fresco in the church of Santa Maria della Pace in Rome.

One of his most important papal commissions was the Raphael Cartoons (now Victoria and Albert Museum), a series of 10 cartoons for tapestries with scenes of the lives of Saint Paul and Saint Peter, intended as wall decoration for the Sistine Chapel. The cartoons were sent to Bruxelles to be sewn in the workshop of Pier van Aelst; the first three tapestries were sent to Rome in 1519. It is possible that Raphael saw the finished series before his death — they were completed in 1520 for Leo X.

Lucretia, engraved by Raimondi after a design by Raphael.
Lucretia, engraved by Raimondi after a design by Raphael.

Raphael, who in Rome lived in Borgo, never married, but it appears that in 1514 he was engaged to Maria Bibbiena (a cardinal's granddaughter); she died in 1520. The other woman in his life was La Fornarina, a beauty named Margherita, the daughter of a baker (fornaro) named Francesco Luti from Siena who lived at via del Governo Vecchio. According to Vasari, his premature death on Good Friday (April 6, 1520) was caused by a night of excessive sex with her, after which he fell into a fever and, not telling his doctors that this was its cause, was given the wrong cure, which killed him. Whatever the cause, in his acute illness Raphael had the wit to receive the last rites, and put his affairs in order. He took the care to dictate his will, in which he left sufficient funds for her care, entrusted to his loyal servant Bavera. Vasari underlines that Raphael was also born on a Good Friday, in 1483, on the 27th or 28th of March. At his request, he was buried in the Pantheon. Art historians and doctors debate whether the right hand on the left breast in La Fornarina reveal a cancerous breast tumour detailed and disguised in a classic pose of love [1].

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Printmaking

Raphael made no prints himself, but entered into a collaboration with Marcantonio Raimondi to produce engravings to Raphael's designs, which created many of the most famous Italian prints of the century, and was important in the rise of the reproductive print. A total of about 50 prints were made; some were copies of Raphael's paintings, but other designs were apparently created only to be made into prints. Raphael made preparatory drawings, many of which survive, for Raimondi to translate into engraving. The two most famous original prints to result from the collaboration were Lucretia and The Massacre of the Innocents. Outside Italy, reproductive prints by Raimondi and others were the main way that Raphael's art was experienced until the twentieth century.

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Legacy

The inscription in his marble sarcophagus, a distichon written by Pietro Bembo, reads: "Ille hic est Raffael, timuit quo sospite vinci, rerum magna parens et moriente mori." Meaning (according to the sign beside it): "Here lies Raffaello who, when alive, Nature was afraid to be won by him, when he died, she wanted to die herself".

Raphael was highly admired by his contemporaries. When compared to Michelangelo and Titian, he was sometimes considered inferior; at the same time, it was maintained that none of them shared all the qualities possessed by Raphael, "ease" in particular.

La Fornarina.
La Fornarina.
Madonna with the Fish.
Madonna with the Fish.
Portrait of Julius II.
Portrait of Julius II.
Spasimo.
Spasimo.
Portrait of Baldassare Castiglione.
Portrait of Baldassare Castiglione.
Saint George.
Saint George.
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Chronology of main works

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Early works

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Florentine period

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Roman period

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See also

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External links

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