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Raffaello Sanzio (Raphael)

1483-1520 Italy/High Renaissance


Brief Biography-Raffaello Sanzio, known as Raphael, was born in Urbino in 1483. His painter and poet father, Giovanni Santi worked in the Court of Montefeltro and was a favourite of Duke Guidobaldo; however, he died when Raphael was only eleven years old. Raphael acquired the basics of painting from his father as a child. When he was seventeen, he went to Perugia to work in the atelier of Pietro Perugino, who had known Giovanni. Perugino was to influence Raphael so much that it was difficult to distinguish his paintings from his master’s works. There is also evidence of the influence of Umbrian artist Pinturicchio in some of his images. After four years, he felt he could not learn any more from Perugino, whom he had surpassed in skills.
In 1504, he went to Florence, where the works of Leonardo and Michelangelo enlightened him, along with the paintings of Masaccio. The Roman antiquities and the sculptures of ancient artists were also essential inspirations for him. Florentine art was to change his style from what he had learned from Perugino to a greater level of perfection, although he was never to abandon his influence completely. He became closely associated with the Dominican friar Fra Bartolommeo who influenced his work. Fra Bartolommeo was declared the best master of the day in Florence.
In 1508, Pope Julius II commissioned him to paint the Vatican Stanze, and he made his way to Rome. He was now to spend the rest of his short life in Rome. Here he was to paint his most renowned frescoes, the Disputa, The School of Athens, Apollo, and the Muses, to name a few. His only rival was his old Venetian friend Sebastiano del Piombo, who painted the Resurrection of Lazarus, with input from Michelangelo, in the same church as Raphael’s Transfiguration. That painting was considered equal to Raphael’s work by critics of the day.
He engaged in portraiture, doing remarkable paintings of his patrons, Julius II and Leo X. The portrait of his supposed mistress, the Donna Velata Woman with a Veil, is considered one of his best images, equal to that of Leonardo’s Mona Lisa.
Pope Leo X appointed Raphael the chief architect for Saint Peters in 1514 when Donato Bramante died. He was also an inspector of monuments and drew plans for restoring the city. However, Vasari stated Raphael lived as a prince rather than a painter, and fifty assistants accompanied him daily from his house to the Vatican. When Michelangelo met him, he remarked: ‘You walk like a general at the head of his army.’ Raphael replied, ‘You, like an executioner on his way to the scaffold.’
He had several students and assistants to help with his atelier’s vast work output. The two most notable were Giulio Romano and Giovan Francesco Penni. Raphael died while painting The Transfiguration in the Vatican, and Giulio completed it with the help of Francesco after his death. Scholars attribute the hint of mannerism in the painting to Giulio. Grief struck Rome at the news of his passing.


Click an Image to Enlarge

woman with
a veil

woman with a veil

el parnaso

el parnaso

of Athens

School of Athens

Liberation of
Saint Peter

Liberation of Saint Peter

la disputa

la disputa


Saint George and the Dragon


Balthazar Castiglione


Bindo Altoviti


Agnolo Doni

Lo Spasimo
di Sicilia

Lo Spasimo di Sicilia


Christ Supported by Two Angels


Betrothal of the Virgin




Pope Julius Two


Elisabetta Gonzaga

A Young

Portrait of a Young Woman


Saint George Struggling with the Dragon

of Fishes

The Miraculous Draught of Fishes


The Crowning of the Virgin


Sistine Madonna


The Transfiguration