School of Raphael
Born in the artistic center of Urbino, Italy as Raphaello Sanzio, Raphael received his early training in art from
his father, the painter Giovanni Santi. Aware of his son’s talents, Giovanni soon sent him to the workshop of
Pietro Perugino, a local artist of considerable talent. Raphael was a genius, and quickly evolved as an
extraordinary artist — he was considered a master at seventeen.
In 1504 Raphael moved to Florence to study the work of the established painters Leonardo da Vinci,
Michelangelo, and Bartolommeo. He studied how they worked with light and shade, anatomy, and dramatic
action. It was here that he began to focus on a more animated, informal style, and his development during
this Florentine period can best be traced to his numerous Madonnas.
Raphael’s creation of a number of simple, intimate Madonna and Child portraits showed a new maturity of
emotional expression and figure posing sophistication. Ultimately, he became best known for these
Madonnas. His Madonna delia Sf&ida was highly admired for its new approach to facial expression and
clothing of the Virgin. For the first time, this divine figure is shown with a peasant-style scarf on her head,
seated at a modest, carved chair. Yet the elegant tondo shape of the panel is a reminder of the finest of art
created in Quattrocento Florence.
Raphael’s Madonna and Child portraits embody the highest grace and ease, and noticeably lack the severity
and mysticism of earlier portraits of the same genre by other artists. Admired for his works of idealistic
beauty and the ideal of human grandeur, Raphael became one of the most famous painters working during the
Italian High Renaissance. This detail from this magnificent print of a 16th century etching of Madonna delia
Sf&ida reflects Raphael’s brilliant and sophisticated approach to these portraits.
In 1508 Raphael was called to Rome by Pope Julius II and was commissioned to create frescoes in four small
rooms, of the Vatican Palace. A room in the Pope’s private apartments called the Stanza delia Segpatura
contains some of the most brilliant frescoes Raphael ever produced. Influences of Michelangelo’s Sistine
OJape1 frescoes are clear in Raphael’s portrayal of body movements in the classical scene, The Sdxd of Athens,
which includes portraits of Plato and Aristotle, double portraits with Michelangelo as Herakleites and
Bramante as Euclid, and other influential philosophers and scientists.
Raphael began his harmonious Madonna delia Sf&ida (or Sedia – effectively the Seated Madonna) in 1514 Rome,
likely just after the completion of the Stanza di Elicdoro in the Pope’s chambers. This Madonna was in the
collections of Florence’s powerful Medici family as early as 1589 and has been housed in the Palazzo Pitti
since the 18th century. When Napolean invaded Italy, this painting was amongst the thousands of treasures
brought back to Paris in 1799, and eventuallyretumed to Florence in 1815.
Raphael spent the remainder of his career in Rome where he undertook several responsibilities: chief architect
of St. Peter’s Basilica, director of all the excavations of antiquities in and near Rome, and commissions for a
great number of portraits and religious paintings.
Raphael was called “the prince of painters” by Giorgio Vasari, a prominent 16th century biographer of artists
and acclaimed artist in his own right. Raphael died in Rome on his 37th birthday, April 6, 1520. His life was
short, but while he lived, he was a genius who evolved and developed brilliant, spiritual works. According to
Vasari, ” … the Pope, who “wept bitterly when he died, had intended to make him a Cardina1.”