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Raphael – One of the most famous master of the High Renaissance

18 October 2011

Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino (April 6 or March 28, 1483 – April 6, 1520), better known simply as
Raphael, was an Italian painter and architect of the High Renaissance. Together with Michelangelo
and Leonardo da Vinci
, he forms the traditional trinity of great masters of that period. Raphael was
enormously productive. Despite his death at 37, there is a plenty of his famous artworks. Many of
his works are found in the Apostolic Palace of The Vatican, where the frescoed Raphael Rooms
were the central, and the largest, work of his career. The best known work is The School of Athens
in the Vatican Stanza della Segnatura. His work is admired for its clarity of form and ease of
composition. Raphael was born in the small but artistically significant Central Italian city of Urbino in the Marche region. His father Giovanni Santi was court painter to the Duke.

His mother Màgia died in 1491 when Raphael was eight. Three years later his father died. Orphaned
at eleven, Raphael’s formal guardian became his only paternal uncle Bartolomeo, a priest. When
Raphael was a teenager he drew his self-portrait. The work showed his talent for drawing. Highly
admired by his contemporaries, Raphael was one of the finest draftsmen in the history of Western

His first documented work was the Baronci altarpiece for the church of Saint Nicholas of
Tolentino in Città di Castello (1501). Unfortunately nowadays only some cut sections and a
preparatory drawing remain. In the following years he painted works for other churches there,
including the “Mond Crucifixion” (about 1503) and the Brera Wedding of the Virgin (1504), and
for Perugia, such as the Oddi Altarpiece. Some of these works are in fresco. In these years he also
started to paint cabinet paintings such as Madonnas and portraits.

Raphael traveled a lot, working in various centres in Northern Italy, but spent a good deal of time
in Florence. The works of these years are mostly influenced by Leonardo da Vinci, who returned to
the city from 1500 to 1506. Raphael began to paint in more dynamic and complex way.

By the end of 1508, Raphael had moved to Rome, where he lived for the rest of his life. Raphael
was commissioned by Pope Julius II to fresco what was intended to become the Pope’s private
library at the Vatican Palace. This was the most important commission than any he had received
before. The Vatican projects took most of his time, but have been regarded ever since as among
the supreme works of the grand manner of the High Renaissance, and the “classic art” of the post-
antique West.

In 1514 became engaged to Maria Bibbiena. After her death Raphael had relationships with
Margherita Luti, the daughter of a baker. Raphael had many affairs, but he never married.
One interesting fact is that it’s considered that Raphael was born on a Good Friday, which in 1483
fell on March 28, and died also on Good Friday (April 6, 1520). It’s is said that the cause of the
death was a night of excessive sex with Luti, after which he fell into a fever. He didn’t tell his
doctors that this was its cause, and was given the wrong cure, which killed him. Raphael was
buried in the Pantheon.

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