Raphael Essay, Research Paper

Raphael was one of the great artists of Renaissance times. Raphael is best known for his Madonna’s and for his large figure compositions in the Vatican in Rome [Nicolas Pioch, Raphael]. He was one of the best at using depth perception in his work. Raphael’s talents are often over looked because people are interested more in the works of Michelangelo and DaVinci. Even though Raphael is often in the shadow of other artists, he was still one of the great artists of the Renaissance.

Raphael Sanzio (Italian in full Raffaello Sanzio [Nicolas Pioch, Raphael]) was born in the small town of Urbino, Italy on April 6, 1483. He received his earliest training from his father, Giovanni Sanzio. Giovanni, being an artist himself, knew enough about the arts to teach his son. Later, Giovanni sent his son to the school of Pietro Perugino. Perugino’s influence was clear in the early works of Raphael. In fact, Perugino’s Crucifixion with the Virgin, St John, St Jerome, and St Mary Magdalene was thought to be a Raphael piece until evidence was found that proved that it was given to the church of San Gimigniano in 1497, when Raphael was only four-teen years old.

Raphael spent the years from 1504 to 1508 mostly in Florence. He learned a lot from other artists in Florence, especially DaVinci. After meeting DaVinci, Raphael’s paintings had more graphic energy. While in Florence Raphael painted Saint George and the Dragon as a gift from Duke Guidobaldo of Urbino to King Henry VII of England. The most impressive work that Raphael did in Florence was the many paintings of Madonnas. Such as The Small Cowper Madonna which showed definite DaVinci influences with it’s soft contour and perfect balance.

In the time around 1508-1509, the twenty-five years old Raphael, was called to Rome by Pope Julius II to lead the decoration of the state rooms in the Vatican Palace. Here, Raphael was allowed to paint on a bigger scale than he had done before. Michelangelo was in the Vatican Palace, painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, at the same time of Raphael’s arrival. On the four walls of the first room Raphael painted the Stanza Della Segnatura. This was completed in 1511. Raphael’s work on the Stanza Della Segnatura included The School of Athens, which pictured Michelangelo and Raphael himself among the philosophers. The Stanza Della Segnatura also included works such as, Disputation over the Sacrament, Parnassus, Cardinal Virtues, and Giving of the Law.

Raphael next frescoed the Stanza d’Eliodoro in the Vatican Palace. Work on this piece was completed in mid-1514. In this room Raphael painted four historical events showing the salvation of the church through divine intervention. In three of these frescoes, Raphael depicted either Julius II or, Leo X, who became Pope in 1513. The fourth fresco in this room shows the liberation of Saint Peter from prison. Raphael painted part of a third room, the Stanza dell’Incendio, named after its main fresco, the Fire in the Borgo.

While in Rome, Raphael wasn’t employed only by the Pope. A number of private parties also paid for Raphael’s services. Two major pieces were done for the Sienese banker, Agostino Chigi. One was a wall fresco of the sea nymph Galatea(1513). The other was an entire ceiling with stories of Cupid and Psyche. He also painted the famous portrait Pope Leo X with Cardinals Giulio de’Medici and Luigi de’Rossi which showed the Pope along with his nephew.

In 1514, Raphael took over Donato Bramante’s job as chief architect of Saint Peter’s Basilica. At Saint Peter’s, Raphael made plans for many architectural designs. Not all of these plans were carried out, but some of them were. These include a chapel for Agostino Chigi in Santa Maria del Popolo, Rome, the Vidoni-Caffarelli Palace in Rome, and the Pandolfini Palace in Florence. They also include the Villa Madama in Rome, however it was never completed.

In 1515, Raphael did a portrait of the rich banker Bindo Altoviti. For years, historians had liked to think that the Bindo Altoviti was a self-portrait by Raphael. Now historians agree that it was Bindo when he was young because this portrait is of a young man, and at the time of this portrait Raphael was thirty-three. I like this portrait a lot because of the emotion that it shows.

In the time between 1515-1516 Raphael painted ten large water color cartoons illustrating the Acts of the Apostles as designs for tapestries to be hung in the Sistine Chapel. Seven of these cartoons still exist in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. The remaining tapestries are in the Vatican Museum.

Later Raphael returned pictures of the Madonna and child. His most famous Madonnas include the Sistine Madonna, and the Madonna of the Chair. Another famous Madonna is The Alba Madonna, which showed Michelangelo’s influence on Raphael.

On April 6, 1520, Raphael died in Rome at the age of 37. He was buried in the Pantheon among universal mourning and recognition. Raphael led the life of an ordinary man, not devoting his life to art like Michelangelo did. Today his Vatican murals stand beside the Sistine ceiling. His work was perfect and smooth. “While we may term other works paintings, those of Raphael are living things; the flesh palpitates, the breath comes and goes, every organ lives, life pulsates everywhere.” [Nicolas Pioch, Raphael]


Durant, Will. The Renaissance, New York, Simon and Schuster, 1953

Pioch, Nicolas. “Web Museum: Raphael”, 1996

“Uffizi- Raphael.” http://www.televisual.net/uffizi/raphael.html



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