"Raphael (1483-1520) (Raffaello Sanzio)" submitted by RomeTour Editorial Team and last updated on Tuesday 10th January 2012
Raffaello Sanzio, Italian painter and architect, was born in Urbino in 1483 and died in Rome in 1520. Being a son of Giovanni Santi, author of a famous Chronicle in rime and the head of a successful studio, who was working for the court of Urbino, and as a portraitist for the court of Mantua, the young artist received the first education in his father's studio, which activity continued till the end of the century, even after the death of Giovanni (1494). In 1500 Raphael worked in Citta' di Castello: Stendardo della Trinita' (now in the local Pinacoteca), where he accepted together with Evangelista da Pian di Meleto, collaborator of Giovanni Santi, the order to depict pala of the blessed Nicola da Tolentino for the church Sant'Agostino (its fragments, damaged in 1789, are now in the Pinacoteca Tosio-Martinengo in the city of Brescia, in the National Galleries of Capodimonte in Naples, and in Louvre in Paris).
The activity of Raphael in Citta' di Castello continued till 1504, with the execution of important altar pieces such as: Crocifissione for the Cappella Gavari in San Domenico (1503) (now in London, Nat.Gall.); Sposalizio della Vergine for the Cappella Albizzini in San Francesco (1504) (now in Milan, Brera). The other works of this period were: Incoronazione della Vergine for the Cappella Oddi in San Francesco in Perugia (1502-1504) (now in the Vatican, Pinacoteca); little tablets Madonna Solly (Berlin, Staatl.Mus.), San Sebastiano (Bergamo, Acc.Carrara), Madonna col Bambino (Pasadena, Norton Simon Mus.).
The field of experience of the young artist grew very quickly through the contacts with Venice, the first probable visit in Rome (1503) and collaboration with Pinturicchio, who Raphael supplied with the designs and drawings for the frescoes in the Libreria Picolomini in Siena.
The blooming of Florence, with the presence there of Michelangelo and Leonardo, convinced Sanzio to go there to learn. It happened in 1504 and since then activity of the artist for circa four years was divided between Florence, Perugia (pala Ansidei (London, Nat.Gall.); frescoe Trinita' e santi (the church of the monastery San Severo) and Urbino, the city, where he returned from time to time keeping in touch with the court of Montefeltro (San Giorgio e il drago (see on the picture); San Michele e il drago (Paris, Louvre), San Giorgio e il drago and Madonna col Bambino, named "little Madonna Cowper" (Washington, Nat.Gall.of Art).
The most precious tablets of the finest elaboration executed in this period were Sogno del Cavaliere (London, Nat.Gall.) and Tre Grazie (see on the picture) (Chantilly, Mus. Conde'). Lots of designs created between the end of 1504 and 1508 reflect very obviously the contacts with the Florentine artists and the studies of the works of the artists of the 15th century, Michelangelo: Trasporto di Cristo morto for Atalanta Baglioni (Rome, Gall.Borghese) and, most of all, Leonardo.
The models of the latter appear always with the originality and new interpretation: Madonna del Granduca (see above on the picture) (Florence, Pitti), Madonna d'Orleans (Chantilly, Mus. Conde'); Madonna del Prato (Vienne, Kunsthistorisches Mus.); Madonna del Cardellino (see on the picture) (Florence, Uffizi); Belle Jardiniere (Paris, Louvre); Madonna Bridgewater (Edinburgh, Nat.Gall. of Scotland); Madonna Tempi and Sacra Famiglia Canigiani (see on the picture) (Monaco, Alte Pin.); Madonna Esterhazy (Budapest, Mus. of Fine Arts); portraits Agnolo Doni, Maddalena Strozzi, Gravida (Florence, Pitti).
Having left unfinished Madonna del baldacchino (Florence, Pitti) in Florence in the end of 1508, Raphael moved to Rome, accepting the invitation to take part together with other artists (Sodoma, Peruzzi, L.Lotto, Bramantino, Perugino) in decoration of the Stanze (Rooms) of the new apartments of Julius II. Very soon he was nominated a complete responsible for decoration of the Stanza della Segnatura (the secret Library of the pope), where he depicted Theology, Phylosophy, Poesy and Jurisprudence represented in frescoes: Disputa del Sacramento, Scuola de Atene, Parnaso and Virtu'. The images celebrating the unity of the Truth, the Good and the Beauty.
Before the first Room was finished, Julius II en-charged Raphael to fresco the second one Stanza di Eliodoro with the four stories from the Holy Script (2nd Book of Maccabes and Acts of the Apostles) or inspired by the story of the popes and the Church, but, at the same time, very straightly connected through the language of symbols with the political programs of the same Julius and dramatic events of those times (the war with the French and schism of Pisa). Because of the meaning of the images that had to be depicted in this room, Raphael abandoned the classic measure and harmony of the frescoes from the first Stanza, elaborating the figurative language of the extreme energy, dramatic in the schenographic effects: Cacciata di Eliodoro dal Tempio; Liberazione di San Pietro dal carcere; Attila e Leone Magno, Miracolo di Bolsena.
After the death of Julius II in 1513 and with election of Leo X, the Stanze became the center of Raphael's activity. He had to control the frescoing of the 3rd room with: Incendio di Borgo, Incoronazione di Carlo Magno, Battaglia di Ostia, executed by his pupils.
Between 1513-1514 were created the frescoes for Agostino Chigi: Trionfo di Galatea (eastern loggia of the Farnesina) and Sibille (Santa Maria della Pace, Cappella Chigi); Madonna Aldobrandini (London, Nat.Gall.); Madonna d'Alba (Washington, Nat.Gall. of Art), Madonna della seggiola (Florence, Pitti).
At the same period with all these works and those in Vatican Palace, were depicted some portraits: Julius II (Londra, Nat.Gall.); Cardinale Inghirami (see on the picture) (Florence, Pitti); La Velata (see on the picture) (Florence, Pitti); and altar pieces: Madonna di Foligno (Vatican, Pin.); Madonna Sistina (see on the picture) (Dresden, Gemaldegal.); Santa Cecilia (Bolonia, Pin.).
In times of Leo X, after the death of Bramante (1514), among other activities, such as projects for the theatre scenes and sculpture, the interests of Raphael were more and more concentrated on architecture and archeological studies. So, the artist was nominated the head of the construction works in St Peter's in Rome, according to the project, which modified the Bramante's one. But his architectonic activity includes also some other constructions: Palazzi Vaticani, burial chapel of Agostino Chigi (S.Maria del Popolo), reconstruction of the palaces, such as Palazzo Branconio dell'Aquila and grandiose scenographic projects for Villa Madama (realized only partly).
The studies of ancient Greek and Roman architecture helped Raphael in his activity, and left the signs also in his paintings: Storie dei Santi Pietro e Paolo (there are only 7 left, that are now in London, Victoria and Albert Mus.); 10 tapestries in Brussels and destined for the Sistine Chapel (now in Vatican, Pinacoteca); decoration of Loggia, of Loggetta and Stufetta of the cardinal Bibbiena (executed in collaboration with Penni, Giulio Romano, Giovanni da Udine, Polidoro da Caravaggio, Perin del Vaga).
Participation of helpers in paintings of the last years is prevalent, but some portraits of that period are attributed to the hand of the artist, such as exceptional portraits of Leone X tra due cardinali (Florence, Uffizi), Autoritratto con un amico (Paris, Louvre; Trasfigurazione (Vatica, Pinacoteca), depicted for the cardinal Giulio de'Medici (Clement VII) in rival with Sebastiano del Piombo, who at the same time executed Resurrezione di Lazzoaro (London, Nat.Gal.). (see on the picture: Baldassar Castiglione (Paris, Louvre))