Raphael was an Italian painter and architect. He was one of the major figures of the High Renaissance. A highly prolific artist who left behind an enormous collection of paintings at the time of his untimely death at the age of 37, he is best known for his paintings of Madonna and for his large figure compositions in the Palace of the Vatican in Rome. Born as the son of an artist, he received his early instruction in art from his father who worked as a court painter to the Duke. His father was an educated and cultured man, and under his guidance young Raphael was raised in an artistically and intellectually stimulating environment. Encouraged by his father, Raphael began painting at a young age and was placed under the training of the Umbrian master Pietro Perugino. However, life dealt a major blow to him when both his parents died within years of each other leaving him orphaned at the age of 11. He grew up to live a nomadic life, working in various centres in Northern Italy, probably spending a good deal of time in Florence as the influence of Florentine art is evident in his paintings. He gained much acclaim as an artist during his lifetime, and together with Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, he forms the traditional trinity of great masters of the High Renaissance
- Raphael was born as Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino in 1483 in Urbino, Marche, Italy, to Giovanni Santi and his wife Magia Ciarla. There are doubts regarding his exact date of birth. It’s either April 6 or March 28, 1483. His father, who was an artist as well as a poet, was the court painter to the Duke.
- Raphael grew up in an artistically stimulating environment as his hometown was a centre for literary culture.
- His mother died in 1491 when he was just eight years old. His father subsequently remarried, but he too died in 1494. Young Raphael, though just 11 at that time, started helping his step-mother manage his late father’s workshop.
- He had started painting at an early age and received training from the likes of Pietro Perugino and Timoteo Viti. By the time he was in his teens, he had produced a remarkable self-portrait. He was fully trained by 1500.
- Raphael received a commission in 1500 to paint a large altarpiece dedicated to Saint Nicholas of Tolentino, for the Baronci chapel in the Sant'Agostino Church in Città di Castello. The work on the paintings was completed on 13 September, 1501.
- During the period 1502–1503, he painted the ‘Mond Crucifixion’, originally an altarpiece in the church of San Domenico, Città di Castello. The painting shows Jesus on the cross, looking peaceful even though he is dying.
- He spent a lot of time in Florence between 1504 and 1508, and was greatly influenced by the works of the painters Fra Bartolommeo, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and Masaccio. During this time he completed three large altarpieces, the ‘Ansidei Madonna’, the ‘Baglioni’ altarpiece, and the ‘Madonna del Baldacchino’.
- He moved to Rome in 1508. The new Pope Julius II commissioned him to fresco, which was intended to become the Pope's private library at the Vatican Palace. Several other artists were already working on different rooms of the library, and ‘The Stanza della segnatura’ ("Room of the Signatura") was the first to be decorated by Raphael's frescoes.
- Between 1512 and 1514 he painted ‘The Mass at Bolsena’. A self-portrait of Raphael as one of the Swiss Guards in the lower right of the fresco is present in the painting.
- One of his most famous paintings, ‘La donna velata’ ("The woman with the veil"), was completed in 1514–15. The painting portrays a beautiful young woman, traditionally identified as his Roman mistress, dressed in finery, depicting opulence.
- He was commissioned by the Sicilian monastery of Santa Maria dello Spasimo in Palermo to paint ‘Christ Falling on the Way to Calvary’, a work which he completed in 1517. Also known as ‘Lo Spasimo’ or ‘Il Spasimo di Sicilia’, the painting is considered to be slightly controversial.
- He established a workshop and had around 50 pupils and assistants. He is credited to have run his workshop in the most efficient manner and several of his students became famous artists in their own right.
- He was also a highly skilled architect who designed several buildings and was reputed to be one of the most important architects in Rome during the mid-1510s.
- His last painting was ‘The Transfiguration’ in 1520. The painting stands as an allegory of the transformative nature of representation, and exemplifies Raphael's development as an artist.
- The ‘Stanze di Raffaello’, in the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican, is considered to be his greatest masterpiece. A part of the commission to decorate the Pope’s private library, the paintings he made include ‘The School of Athens’, ‘The Parnassus’ and the ‘Disputa’ which reflect the themes of philosophy, theology, jurisprudence and poetic arts.
- He was rich and famous and lived a rather grand life. He never married though he had several lovers, including his long-term mistress, Margherita Luti. He was once engaged to Maria Bibbiena, Cardinal Medici Bibbiena's niece, though the marriage never took place.
- He fell severely ill after his 37th birthday and died a few days later on 6 April, 1520.
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