Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino was an artist known for his clean compositions and intricate use of colours. Raphael’s father was likely his first teacher. His father was a poet and painter. After his father’s sudden demise, Raffaello ran the family workshop. It was renaissance artist Pietro Perugino that guided him intensively, and by 1500, Raffaello was a ‘master’ in his work. 

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Self Portrait_©Wikipedia

Raphael was the front runner of the High Renaissance period. This period lasted till the death of Raffaello. Amplifying the core and essence of renaissance culture, the High Renaissance renewed the emphasis on the classical tradition and a gradual attenuation of figural forms into the style of Mannerism. 

Pope Julius II, an eminent patron of the High Renaissance period, supported artists like Raphael and Michelangelo. In 1508, Pope Julius II invited Raphael to work at the papal court and provided him with a large workshop to fill Raphael’s finest works.

Raphael, Leonardo, and Michelangelo form the great trinity of their time. Michelangelo shone as a painter, architect, and sculptor and exhibited a mastery of portraying the human figure. His frescoes rank among the most celebrated works of Renaissance art. While Leonardo was an Italian polymath who excelled in all of his talents. Raphael, an architect and Italian painter, was skilled in creating perspective and in the delicate use of colour.

Raffaello’s career can be studied as three phases. First, his early years in Umbria, followed by a period of about four years (from 1504-1508) engrossing the artistic traditions of Florence. At last, twelve years of his hectic and triumphant career, working for two Popes and for their close associates, in Rome.

One of his first works was when he was training under Perugino, the Resurrection of Christ. Commonly known as The Kinnaird Resurrection, this painting was one of the first preserved works of Raphael. This work exhibits the natural dramatic style of composition in contrast to the gentle poetic style of his master. The oil painting is dictated by a complex ideal geometry that interlinks all the elements of the scene and gives it an animated rhythm. This work shows Raphael’s knowledge of the Florentine artistic milieu of the 16th century.

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The Resurrection of Christ_©Google Arts & Culture

Similar to Perugino’s painting, the marriage of the virgin is one of Raphael’s famous works. Raffaello’s skill is perspective is evident and all elements in the painting are connected by mathematical relations of proportion and placed according to a clear, logical hierarchical order.

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The Marriage of the Virgin (1504)_©-Wikipedia

Raffaello did a series of very small pictures around 1503−1505 when he was dividing his time between Perugia and Urbino. ‘St. Michael Vanquishing Satan’ is a famous piece from this line. The lighting, settings and creatures show how much he was inspired by his mentor at the same time recognizing his style.

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St. Michael Vanquishing Satan_©-Wikipedia
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Madonna and Child Enthroned with Saints_©Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Deposition of Christ is similar to Michelangelo’s style but Raphael was more delicate with his visuals. The whole painting had three panels that depicted Faith, Charity and Hope. The concept behind the painting is amazing and Raphael’s unique techniques helped communicate it. This painting shows the outcome of his study on both Leonardo’s and Michelangelo’s works.

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The Deposition_©Wikipedia

Raffaello was given an apartment on the second floor of the Pontifical Palace, Vatican City. The four Raphael Rooms or Stanze di Raffaello form a suite of reception rooms. The frescoes painted by both Raphael and Michelangelo mark the High Renaissance in Rome. 

The Stanze was originally intended as a suite of apartments for Pope Julius II. He commissioned Raphael to redecorate its interiors and outshine the apartment of his predecessors. 

Travelling from east to west, the circulation of a visitor entering the apartment, wouldn’t have followed the sequence in which the Stanze were frescoed, the rooms are the Sala di Costantino (“Hall of Constantine”), the Stanza di Eliodoro (“Room of Heliodorus”), the Stanza Della Segnatura (“Room of the Signatura”), and the Stanza dell’Incendio del Borgo (“The Room of the Fire in the Borgo“).

After Raphael’s demise in 1520, his assistants Gianfrancesco Penni, Giulio Romano and Raffaellino del Colle completed the project with the frescoes in the Sala di Costantino.

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Ceiling of the Stanza della Segnatura_©employees.oneonta.edu
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Stanza della Segnatura_Pictures from Italy-©Private Tours of Florence, Rome and Venice
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Parnaso_©-Wikipedia

While he was at work in the Stanza della Segnatura, Raphael also did his first architectural work, designing the church of Sant’Eligio degli Orefici. Raffaello intended beauty as an abstract order of geometrical representation and thought that artists had the duty of “making things, not as Nature makes them, but as Nature should.” The realisation of this coherent organism perfectly demonstrates Raphael’s vision.

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Sant’Eligio degli Orefici_©Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino (Raphael)

The grace and completeness of Raphael Sanzio’s paintings and drawings lauded during his time and much more after his death. Despite his early death at thirty-seven, Raphael was enormously prolific. A substantial collection of his work remains, especially in the Vatican. 

He was remarkably prominent in his lifetime, but after his death, the influence of his famous rival Michelangelo was further widespread till the 18th and 19th centuries. By this time, Raphael’s more serene and harmonious qualities were again regarded as the highest models.

References

Carpe Diem Rome. Life & Death of Raffaello Sanzio | Carpe Diem Rome. [online]. Available at:https://carpediemrome.com/life-death-of-raffaello-sanzio/ [Accessed date: 06/03/2021]

The J. Paul Getty in Los Angeles. Raphael (Raffaello Sanzio) (Italian, 1483 – 1520) (Getty Museum). [online]. Available at:http://www.getty.edu/art/collection/artists/503/raphael-raffaello-sanzio-italian-1483-1520/ [Accessed date: 06/03/2021]

Metmuseum.org. [online]. Available at:https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/437372 [Accessed date: 06/03/2021]

Virtual Uffizi Gallery. Raffaello Sanzio :: Biography ► Virtual Uffizi. [online]. Available at:https://www.virtualuffizi.com/raffaello-sanzio-called-raphael.html [Accessed date: 06/03/2021]

Abigail R. Kurian
Author

While keeping to her roots, Abigail likes to venture unconventional paths. Exploring a designer's journey of concept making excites her anyday. While pursuing architecture she invests time in photography and music. She believes when designing, sustainability is a prerequisite along with adapting aesthetics.

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