Italian painter and architect Raffaello Sanzio, also known as Raphael (1483-1520) was the supreme representative of Italian High Renaissance classicism. He was noted for his clarity of form and ability to convey grandeur, beauty and perfection.
About his life
Raphael was born on April 6, 1483, in Urbino, Italy. He became Perugino‘s apprentice in 1504. His father was a court painter and Raphael followed in his father’s footsteps. This enabled him to move easily amongst the higher circles of court society and this helped his career in gaining commissions. Raphael studied the works of the great masters such as Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. He absorbed a lot of their style and techniques, but maintained his own unique style. Raphael was considered a friendly and social artist. People liked him and enjoyed his company. In 1514, Pope Julius II hired Raphael as his chief architect. Raphael died in Rome on April 6, 1520.
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What were his major works?
In his early years, based on the painting on the same theme by his teacher Pietro Perugino, Raphael did The Marriage of the Virgin (1504).
Among his major paintings there are Saint George and the Dragon (1506), which depicts the most famous work on the well-known legend of Saint George slaying the Dragon, La belle Jardinière (1507), which shows calm faced Madonna in an informal pose with Christ and the young John the Baptist, the Sistine Madonna (1512), which depicts the Madonna, holding the Christ Child and flanked by Saint Sixtus and Saint Barbara and it is considered one of the finest paintings by many notable critics, La Donna Velata (1515), which shows Raphael’s attention to detail which contributes in bringing the painting to life, the Portrait of Baldassare Castiglione (1515), who is considered a quintessential example of the High Renaissance gentleman.
Transfiguration (1520) is the last painting created by Raphael, which can be interpreted as depicting the contrast between god and man; Giorgio Vasari calls it Raphael’s “most beautiful and most divine” work.
- FRESCO PAINTINGS
Along with Michelangelo’s frescoes in the Sistine Chapel, Raphael’s frescoes in The Raphael Rooms of the Apostolic Palace are quintessential artworks of High Renaissance in Rome. The Raphael Rooms contain the richest series of High Renaissance painting ever produced in one location. Among this works stands out two frescoes in the Room of Signatura: the Disputation of the Holy Sacrament (1510), which shows the image of church spanning both earth and heaven and it represent Theology, and The School of Athens (1511), which is considered the perfect embodiment of the classical spirit of the High Renaissance and it is the most famous painting by Raphael, representing Philosophy.
Also, there is The Triumph of Galatea, a fresco masterpiece completed in 1512 by Raphael for the Villa Farnesina in Rome, which is an Ancient Greek mythology story and it is perhaps without parallel in its ability to evoke the spirit of classical antiquity.
As an architect Raphael created the design for a chapel in Sant’Eligio degli Orefici (1509). He also designed The Chigi Chapel in St. Maria del Popolo (1512.1513) and an area within Saint Peter’s Basilica. Raphael’s architectural work was not limited to religious buildings. It also extended to designing palaces. Raphael’s architecture honored the classical sensibilities of his predecessor, Donato Bramante, and incorporated his use of ornamental details.
How can we idenify Raphael’s style?
- In early years Raphael was influenced by Perugino’style but despite the similarities however, this work departs from him in form and space. The graceful figures are woven into a unity unknown in Perugino’s art.
- In middle years Raphael learnt to replace the fragile grace of Perugino with a more measured movement, with more gravity and grandeur. Raphael also adapted inventions in painting that connoisseurs would have immediately recognized as Leonardo da Vinci’s. Raphael’s drawing style also changed in Florence, where more of his work was in pen and ink, often used as a rougher means of generating and exploring ideas as well as defining them.
- In Rome Raphael developed his oil technique, perhaps because of his contact with Venetian painting. The range of his impasto in some of his oil paintings has few parallels in the work of earlier artists, meaning this may have been one of his rare innovations. He achieved the greater depth of shadow and richer colors associated with the oil medium.
- In Rome there is the gradual abandonment of the metal point in favor of chalk, and his use of the new medium of red chalk especially for the studies for the female nudes in The Triumph of Galatea.
- His works shows concern for underlying geometric structure in composition and his practice of studying each figure separately from a living model.
- He mostly used oil paint, sometimes egg tempera in early years.