Raphael (Raffaello Sanzio) 1483 – 1520
Raphael, born Raffaello Sanzio, was born into an artistic family, his father a court painter. Raphael received his early art training from his father and consequently socialised with people of prominence within the court from an early age, which is said to have developed Raphael’s refined manners and social skills and, ultimately set him apart from his contemporaries.
Raphael’s mother died when he was 8 years old, followed by his father 4 years later. During the time his father was alive, he is said to have been apprenticed to Pietro Perugino. Over time, Raphael absorbed the teachings of his master to the extent that historians have struggled to identify which artist some paintings belong, Raphael or Perugino.
During his somewhat short life, Raphael enjoyed a successful career as an esteemed artist with excellent social standing. It was his respected social reputation and close friendship with the pope that led to many of his commissions, with much of his work done for, and remains, within the Vatican. Some of Raphael’s most famous paintings include ‘The school of Athens’ (Raphael’s fresco masterpiece depicting himself, Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci among other prominent figures of that time), ‘Madonna of the meadow’ and ‘The wedding of the virgin’.
Raphael ran a successful work shop of over 50 students, one of the largest for a single Master which is said to have been run, true to character, with great organisation, efficiency and harmony. An outstanding artist in his own right, Raphael was considered to hold the ideal balance of an artist; universally talented and obeying all the rules that governed the arts. His work has been admired for its ease of composition with some scholars saying his work is too perfect. Although he lacked the depth of knowledge or dynamic power of Leonardo and Michelangelo, it was his work combined with his likable character, social graces and even temper that won him great favour and the made him the popular artist he was.
Raphael died at the early age of 37, although he never married, he perhaps reluctantly, engaged to marry Maria Bibbiena, Cardinal Medici Bibbiena’s niece. Their marriage had not taken place before she died and Raphael is said to have had many affairs but, a long term affair with Margherita Luti, a baker’s daughter. Raphael’s premature death was caused by a fever lasting 15 days which he may have overcome if he had been administered the right cure. Some records say his fever resulted from a night of excessive sex with his mistress while other say it was due to an insect bite.
The latter part of Raphael’s life saw him create some of his greatest paintings but was incomplete at the time of his death. Raphael was undoubtedly one of the great artists of his time, highly regarded and admired by his contemporaries. His compositions later became the cornerstone of the training of The Academies of Art.