Raphael (1483–1520)

Italian painter, graphic artist, and architect of Umbrian and Roman schools, Raphael embodied the idea of the lofty ideals of Renaissance. His famous “The Sistine Madonna” painting is one of the most recognizable in history. Along with Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael is one of the greatest representatives of the art of the High Renaissance.

File:Self-portrait by Raphael in Pushkin museum (2016) by shakko 03.jpg
Self-portrait, Raphael, 1504-1506-in Pushkin museum

Image source: https://search.creativecommons.org/photos/809cd54e-28a3-459e-a196-e2fafc3ce3b2 by Shakko

About his life

Raphael was born in a family of court painters on April 6, 1483, in Urbino, Italy.  In 1504 he began to study painting with the famous Perugino. Thanks to this he had access to the highest circles of the court society, that gave a positive effect on his career. Raphael studied many masterpieces by Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo and borrowed a lot from them, but retained his authentic style and unique technique. Raphael was distinguished by his sociability and was a favorite in society. In 1514 he entered the service of Pope Julius II as chief architect. During his short life, he became one of the most famous and wealthy artists in Italy. Raphael died in Rome on April 6, 1520, and was buried in the Pantheon, where his tomb rests till nowadays.

Raphaël, <i>La Transfiguration</i>
Transfiguration (1520) is the last painting created by Raphael

Image source: https://search.creativecommons.org/photos/f3d9a2bf-0aec-4858-bdc0-f3d121647abb by Institutnationaldhistoiredelart‎

What were his major works?

Raphael, Marriage of the Virgin, 1504; Brera Gallery, Milan (2)
The Marriage of the Virgin (1504) was painted in his early years, based on the painting on the same theme by his teacher Pietro Perugino;

Image source: https://search.creativecommons.org/photos/f2a42613-dffa-456d-aae7-5226996c3738 by Prof. Mortel

  •  The Marriage of the Virgin (1504) was painted in his early years, based on the painting on the same theme by his teacher Pietro Perugino;
  • 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;
  • 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 to bringing the painting to life;
  • 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”.
'Portrait de Baldassare Castiglione', Raphaël. Musée du Louvre.
ortrait of Baldassare Castiglione (1515), who is considered a quintessential example of the High Renaissance gentleman.

Image source: https://search.creativecommons.org/photos/f298d5f7-a6e8-4e67-aeb8-e62965775219 by Lejeune Grégory

Raphaël, <i>La Belle Jardinière</i>
La belle Jardinière (1507), which shows calm faced Madonna in an informal pose with Christ and the young John the Baptist;

Image source:  https://search.creativecommons.org/photos/8e9a230f-e21a-4df2-8b9e-ea621d06c341 by Institutnationaldhistoiredelart‎


Raphael’s frescoes in the Raphael Halls of the Apostolic Palace are the quintessential works of art from the High Renaissance in Rome. The Raphael Halls contain the richest series of High Renaissance paintings ever produced in one place. The most notable two murals in the Hall of the Signature are:

  • Disputation of the Holy Sacrament (1510), which shows the image of church spanning both earth and heaven and it represents Theology;
  • The School of Athens (1511), which is considered the perfect embodiment of the classical spirit of the High Renaissance and is the most famous painting by Raphael.
The School of Athens by Raphael
The School of Athens (1511) by Raphael

Image source: https://search.creativecommons.org/photos/ca30c3b6-011e-44ce-a0ad-bee9eaeb33e7 by Bradley N. Weber

The Triumph of Galatea, a fresco masterpiece completed in 1512 by Raphael for Villa Farnesina in Rome. This is an ancient Greek mythological plot, which, perhaps, has no analogies in its ability to convey the spirit of classical antiquity.

The Triumph of Galatea, Raphael, 1514

Image source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raphael#/media/File:Raphael’s_Triumph_of_Galatea_01.jpg


Raphael was the architect of the chapel in Sant Eligio degli Orefica (1509). According to his project, the Chigi chapel was created in Santa Maria del Popolo (1512-1513), as well as the territory inside St. Peter’s Basilica. In addition to religious buildings, Raphael also designed palaces. Raphael’s architectural style is distinguishable by the use of decorative elements, as well as a classical focus, like his predecessor Donato Bramante.

Sant’Eligio degli Orefici, Raphael-Bramante, 1509-1575

Image source: https://upload.wikimedia.org

How can we identify Raphael’s style?

  • During the early years, Raphael was influenced by Perugino’style, but despite the similarities, his work detaches from it in form and space. The graceful figures are woven into a unity unknown in Perugino’s art.
  • Middle years: Raphael’s painting style is characterized by smooth dynamics, greater seriousness, and grandeur. Raphael also used painting techniques, in which we can identify the discoveries of Leonardo da Vinci. In Florence, his painting style also changed. He often drew with pen and ink, using them as a more crude means of creating and exploring ideas, as well as their definition.
File:Santa Maria della Pace Chigi Chapel by Rafael.jpg
the Chigi Chapel- Santa Maria della Pace Chigi Chapel by Rafael

Image source: https://search.creativecommons.org/photos/88a88d1d-02dd-4cf0-a09b-627ce842b480 by Maludemi

  • In Rome, Raphael developed his oil technique, possibly due to his connection to Venetian painting. The range of his impasto in some of his oil paintings bears little resemblance to the work of earlier artists, which means that it may have been one of his rare innovations. He achieved greater shade depth and richer colors associated with an oily environment.
  • He gradually abandoned the metal point in favor of chalk and red chalk, especially for working on the female figures in the Triumph of Galatea.
  • His works demonstrate his attention to basic geometric composition and his practice of examining each figure separately from the living model.
  • He mainly used oil paint, sometimes egg tempera in the early years.
Raphael, la Fornarina, 1518-19; Palazzo Barberini, Rome (2)
Raphael, la Fornarina, 1518-19 – Palazzo Barberini, Rome

Image source: https://search.creativecommons.org/photos/c7a99226-6102-40e3-a9b6-f5eb1ec9c531 by Prof. Mortel

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