Italian high Renaissance painter and architect Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino was born March 28 or April 6, 1483 in Urbino in the Marche region. His father Giovanni Santi was court painter to the Duke. The reputation of the court had been established by Federico III da Montefeltro, a highly successful condottiere who had been created Duke of Urbino by the Pope but died the year before Raphael was born. Federico was succeeded by his son Guidobaldo da Montefeltro, who married Elisabetta Gonzaga, daughter of the ruler of Mantua, Under them, the court continued as a centre for literary culture .Court life in Urbino was depicted by Baldassare Castiglione’s The Book of the Courtier, Castiglione moved to Urbino in 1504, when Raphael was no longer based there but frequently visited, and they became good friends. Raphael mixed inthe highest circles throughout his life. His mother Màgia died in 1491 when Raphael was eight, followed on August 1, 1494 by his father. Raphael was thus orphaned at eleven; his formal guardian became his only paternal uncle Bartolomeo, a priest. Raphael had already shown talent, according to Vasari, His father’s workshop continued and, probably together with his stepmother. In Urbino, he also came into contact with the works of Paolo Uccello, previously the court painter and Luca Signorelli.VAccording to Vasari, his father placed him in the workshop of the Umbrian master Pietro Perugino as an apprentice he may have Also received training from Timoteo Viti, who acted as court painter in Urbino from 1495. Raphael is described as a “master”, (fully trained) in December 1500.
His first documented work was the Baronci altarpiece for the church of Saint Nicholas of Tolentino in Città di Castello, halfway between Perugia and Urbino. Evangelista da Pian di Meleto, was also named in the commission. It was commissioned in 1500 and finished in 1501; sadly only some cut sections and a preparatory drawing remain. He also painted works for other churches including the Mond Crucifixion, the Brera Wedding of the Virgin and the Oddi Altarpiece ar Perugia. He also painted many small and exquisite cabinet paintings like the Three Graces and St. Michael, he also began to paint Madonnas and portraits. In 1502 he was invited to Siena by Pinturicchio, who was a friend of Raphael and considered him to be a draughtsman of the highest quality, to help with the cartoons, and designs, for a fresco series in the Piccolomini Library in Siena Cathedral. Although Raphael mainly worked in Northern Italy, he also spent a good deal of time in Florence. Raphael was influenced by Florentine art, whilst keeping his own developing style. Frescos in Perugia of about 1505 show a new monumental quality in the figures which may represent the influence of Fra Bartolomeo, who Vasari says was a friend of Raphael. Another major influence was Leonardo da Vinci,
Raphael’s figures became more dynamic and complex and he made drawn studies of fighting nude men, And portraits of young women that using the three-quarter length pyramidal composition of the just-completed Mona Lisa. Another of Leonardo’s compositional inventions, is the pyramidal Holy Family, . There is a drawing by Raphael in the Royal Collection of Leonardo’s lost Leda and the Swan, from which he adapted the contrapposto pose of his own Saint Catherine of Alexandria. He also perfected his own version of Leonardo’s sfumato modelling, to give subtlety to his painting of flesh, However these are much less enigmatic than Leonardo’s But retain the soft clear light of Perugino. Raphael’s Deposition of Christ draws on classical sarcophagi to spread the figures across the front of the picture space in a complex and not wholly successful arrangement. There is an influence of the Madonna in Michelangelo’s Doni Tondo in the kneeling figure on the right, but the rest of the composition is far removed from his style, or that of Leonardo. in 1508, Raphael had moved to Rome, where he lived for the rest of his life. He was invited by the new Pope Julius II, at the suggestion of his architect Donato Bramante, then engaged on St. Peter’s Basilica, who came from just outside Urbino and was distantly related to Raphael. Unlike Michelangelo, Raphael was immediately commissioned by Julius to fresco what was intended to become the Pope’s private library at the Vatican Palace. Several other artists and their teams of assistants were already at work on different rooms, many painting over recently completed paintings commissioned by Julius’s loathed predecessor, Alexander VI, whose contributions, and arms, Julius was determined to efface from the palace. Michelangelo, meanwhile, had been commissioned to paint the Sistine Chapel ceiling.
This first of the famous “Stanze” or “Raphael Rooms” to be painted, now known as the Stanza della Segnatura after its use in Vasari’s time, influenced Roman art, and remains generally regarded as his greatest masterpiece, containing The School of Athens, The Parnassus and the Disputa. Raphael was given two more rooms to paint, displacing other artists including Perugino and Signorelli. He completed a sequence of three rooms, each with paintings on each wall and often the ceilings too. The death of Julius in 1513 did not interrupt the work at all, as he was succeeded by Raphael’s last Pope, the Medici Pope Leo X, with whom Raphael formed an even closer relationship, and who continued to commission him. Raphael’s friend Cardinal Bibbiena was also one of Leo’s old tutors, and a close friend and advisor. Raphael was clearly influenced by Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling in the course of painting the room. Vasari said Bramante let him in secretly. The first section was completed in 1511 and the reaction of other artists to the daunting force of Michelangelo was the dominating question in Italian art for the following few decades. Raphael, had already shown his gift for absorbing influences into his own personal style and One of the first and clearest instances was the portrait in The School of Athens of Michelangelo himself, as Heraclitus, which were influenced by the Sybils and ignudi of the Sistine ceiling. Other figures in that and later paintings in the room show the same influences, but still demonstrate Raphael’s own style this led Michelangelo to accuse Raphael of plagiarism. However These very large and complex compositions have since become regarded as among the supreme works of the grand manner of the High Renaissance, and the “classic art” of the post-antique West which give a highly idealised depiction of the forms represented.
After Bramante’s death in 1514, Raphael was named architect of the new St Peter’s. Most of his work there was altered or demolished after his death and the acceptance of Michelangelo’s design, but a few drawings have survived. He also designed several other buildings, and for a short time was the most important architect in Rome, working for a small circle around the Papacy. Julius had made changes to the street plan of Rome, creating several new thoroughfares, and he wanted them filled with splendid palaces. An important building, the Palazzo Branconio dell’Aquila for Leo’s Papal Chamberlain Giovanni Battista Branconio, was completely destroyed to make way for Bernini’s piazza for St. Peter’s, however drawings of the richly decorated façade and courtyard remain. The main designs for the Villa Farnesina were not by Raphael, but he did design, and decorated with mosaics, the Chigi Chapel for the same patron, Agostino Chigi, the Papal Treasurer. Another building, for Pope Leo’s doctor, the Palazzo di Jacobo da Brescia, was moved in the 1930s but survives; this was designed to complement a palace on the same street by Bramante, where Raphael himself lived for a time. The Villa Madama, a lavish hillside retreat for Cardinal Giulio de’ Medici, later Pope Clement VII, was never finished, and his full plans have to be reconstructed speculatively. He produced a design from which the final construction plans were completed by Antonio da Sangallo the Younger. Even incomplete, it was the most sophisticated villa design yet seen in Italy, and greatly influenced the later development of the genre; it appears to be the only modern building in Rome of which Palladio made a measured drawing.
In 1515 he was made “Prefect” over all antiquities unearthed entrusted within the city, or a mile outside. Raphael wrote a letter to Pope Leo suggesting ways of halting the destruction of ancient monuments, and proposed a visual survey of the city to record all antiquities in an organised fashion. The Pope’s concerns were not exactly the same; he intended to continue to re-use ancient masonry in the building of St Peter’s, but wanted to ensure that all ancient inscriptions were recorded, and sculpture preserved, before allowing the stones to be reused. The Vatican projects took most of his time, although he painted several portraits, including those of his two main patrons, the popes Julius II and his successor Leo X, the former considered one of his finest. Other portraits were of his own friends, like Castiglione, or the immediate Papal circle. Other rulers pressed for work, and King Francis I of France was sent two paintings as diplomatic gifts from the Pope. For Agostino Chigi, the hugely rich banker and Papal Treasurer, he painted the Triumph of Galatea and designed further decorative frescoes for his Villa Farnesina, a chapel in the church of Santa Maria della Pace and mosaics in the funerary chapel in Santa Maria del Popolo. He also designed some of the decoration for the Villa Madama, the work in both villas being executed by his workshop.
One of his most important papal commissions was the Raphael Cartoons (now in the Victoria and Albert Museum), a series of 10 cartoons, of which seven survive, for tapestries with scenes of the lives of Saint Paul and Saint Peter, for the Sistine Chapel. The cartoons were sent to Brussels to be woven in the workshop of Pier van Aelst. He also designed and painted the Loggie at the Vatican, a long thin gallery then open to a courtyard on one side, decorated with Roman-style grottesche. He produced a number of significant altarpieces, including The Ecstasy of St. Cecilia and the Sistine Madonna. His last work, on which he was working up to his death, was a large Transfiguration, which together with Il Spasimo shows the direction his art was taking in his final years—more proto-Baroque than Mannerist.
Raphael also collaborated with Marcantonio Raimondi to produce engravings, Raimondi created many of the most famous Italian prints of the century, and was important in the rise of the reproductive print. His interest was unusual in such a major artist; from his contemporaries it was only shared by Titian, who had alao worked with Raimondi. A total of about fifty prints were made; some were copies of Raphael’s paintings, but other designs were apparently created by Raphael purely to be turned into prints. Raphael made preparatory drawings, many of which survive, for Raimondi to translate into engraving. The most famous original prints to result from the collaboration were Lucretia, the Judgement of Paris and The Massacre of the Innocents (of which two virtually identical versions were engraved), The Parnassus (with considerable differences) and Galatea. Outside Italy, reproductive prints by Raimondi and others were the main way that Raphael’s art was experienced until the twentieth century. Baviero Carocci, an assistant who Raphael evidently trusted ended up in control of most of the copper plates after Raphael’s death, and had a successful career in the new occupation of a publisher of prints.
Raphael was also an excellent draftsmen and used drawings extensively to plan his compositions. Over forty sketches survive for the Disputa in the Stanze. He used different drawings to refine his poses and compositions. For final compositions scaled-up full-size cartoons were made, He also made unusually extensive use, on both paper and plaster, of a “blind stylus”, scratching lines which leave only an indentation, but no mark. These can be seen on the wall in The School of Athens, The “Raphael Cartoons”, as tapestry designs, were fully coloured in a glue distemper medium, as they were sent to Brussels to be followed by the weavers. Most Raphael drawings are rather precise—even initial sketches with naked outline figures are carefully drawn, and later working drawings often have a high degree of finish, with shading and sometimes highlights in white. They lack the freedom and energy of some of Leonardo’s and Michelangelo’s sketches, but are nearly always aesthetically very satisfying. He was one of the last artists to use metalpoint extensively, although he also made superb use of the freer medium of red or black chalk In his final years he was one of the first artists to use female models for preparatory drawings—male pupils (“garzoni”) were normally used for studies of both sexes.
From 1517 until his death, Raphael lived in the Palazzo Caprini in the Borgo, in rather grand style in a palace designed by Bramante. He never married, but in 1514 became engaged to Maria Bibbiena, Cardinal Medici Bibbiena’s niece. He is said to have had many affairs, but a permanent fixture in his life in Rome was “La Fornarina”, Margherita Luti, the daughter of a baker (fornaro) named Francesco Luti from Siena who lived at Via del Governo Vecchio. He was made a “Groom of the Chamber” of the Pope, which gave him status at court and an additional income, and also a knight of the Papal Order of the Golden Spur. According to Vasari, Raphael’s premature death on Good Friday (April 6, 1520), which was possibly his 37th birthday, was caused by a night of excessive sex with Luti, after which he fell into a fever and, not telling his doctors that this was its cause, was given the wrong cure, which killed him. Vasari also says that Raphael had also been born on a Good Friday, which in 1483 fell on March 28. Whatever the cause, in his acute illness, which lasted fifteen days, Raphael was composed enough to confess his sins, receive the last rites, and to put his affairs in order, he left sufficient funds for his mistress’s care, entrusted to his loyal servant Baviera, and left most of his studio contents to Giulio Romano and Penni. At his request, Raphael was buried in the Pantheon. His funeral was extremely grand, attended by large crowds. The inscription in his marble sarcophagus, an elegiac distich written by Pietro Bembo, reads: “Ille hic est Raffael, timuit quo sospite vinci, rerum magna parens et moriente mori”, meaning: “Here lies that famous Raphael by whom Nature feared to be conquered while he lived, and when he was dying, feared herself to die.”