During a time when Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci were the prime artists in Europe, a young man by the name of Raffaello Sanzio was starting to attract major attention with his artworks. The Italian high renaissance was marked by paintings expressing human grandeur and very humanistic values. No one better portrayed the Italian high Renaissance then Raphael Sanzio, with his painting's clarity and ease of composition, Raphael was easily one of the greatest painters of this period. Born in an artistically influenced town in Italy called Urbino, Raffaello Sanzio was first taught by his father, Giovanni Santi, how to compose works of art at a very early age. At the age of fourteen, Raphael's father realized his son's potential and sent him to a very talented teacher by the name of Pietro Perugino. Pietro Perugino lived from 1478 to 1520, and had a strong influence on Raphael's early artworks. Perugino was a Umbrian painter who loved to incorporate beautiful landscapes into his paintings. Raphael's early works resembled Perugino's so much that paintings such as the Crucifixion with the Virgin, Saint John, Saint Jerome, and Saint Mary Magdalene were thought to be Raphael's until the church of San Gimingniano proved that they were in fact Perugino's. "Raphael was only 14. It is undoubtedly a Perugino calmly emotional, and pious rather than passionate"(Pioch). Unlike the other great painters of this time such as Michelangelo and Da Vinci, Raphael was born with a great understanding of art and required little instruction if any. Because of Raphael's great understanding of the arts, he quickly surpassed his teacher and ventured out on his own to the great city of Florence in 1504. At the same time Raphael arrived in Florence, the other great painters of time, Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci were the popular painters of the city. Because of the competitive environment of Florence, Raphael adopted many new painting techniques such as shading, anatomy, and frozen action. Both Michelangelo and Da Vinci's styles influenced Raphael while he was in Florence. Raphael's energetic paintings with softness and balance such as the "Small Cauper Madonna", were influenced directly from Michelangelo. While Raphael was in Florence, Duke Guidobaldo employed him to paint a painting for King Henry VII of England. In the painting "Saint George and the Dragon", Raphael portrays Saint George as a brave warrior fighting against a dragon right outside it's lair. In contrast to the action of the painting, the background is peaceful and serene. In the story of Saint George, after the dragon is slain, the town all converts to Christianity, symbolizing the triumph of Christianity over all. Raphael stayed in Florence until he decided to go to Rome where he could branch out and away from his two competitors.
Once in Rome, Raphael was immediately commissioned by Pope Julius II because of his uncanny gift for painting sacred and secular paintings. Julius II had Raphael paint the rooms of the Vatican apartment which brought life to the otherwise dull walls of the stanze. When Raphael arrived at the Vatican palace, Michelangelo was busy painting the Sistine Chapel ceiling. Raphael started the stanze walls around 1508 and didn't finish until 1511. Raphael had painted the walls to celebrate the four aspects of human accomplishment: theology, philosophy, arts, and law. To represent theology, was the "Disputation of the Sacrament". To represent philosophy was the famous "School of Athens", in which Raphael paints Michelangelo and himself in amongst the philosophers. To represent the arts was "Parnassus" and finally to represent law was "Cardinal Virtues". When fused together, these four aspects marked the transition from the middle ages to modern times.
(Taylor, 59) After he finished the frescos in the Vatican Palace, Raphael went on to fresco the Stanza d'Eliodoro between the years 1511 and 1514. Again Raphael depicted four historical events that illustrated salvation by divine intervention with his unparalleled gift for painting Christian paintings.
Throughout Raphael's artistic career, he went back to painting's portraying the Madonna and child many times. "The Alba Madonna", was one of Raphael's most famous Madonnas because it differed so much from traditional Roman art. The Madonnas of this time were usually shown sitting on a throne, but Raphael painted her in the middle of a field which I think added a realism without shattering her queenly image. Raphael also painted the Alba Madonna in a classic symmetrical triangle which was consistent with the painting techniques of that time. Raphael's painted more then forty Madonnas before his untimely death in 1520. (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 22)
After suffering in bed for fifteen days, Raphael Sanzio died on his birthday at the young age of 37. Raphael seemed to blend harmony and balance perfectly into his paintings. Two of Raphael's most famous artworks that I found to be the most astounding seemed to symbolize his never ending quest to create the perfect masterpiece. In the painting " The School of Athens", Raphael immortalizes all of the great philosophers for all of time by capturing them in the height of the Italian Renaissance. Also in Raphael's "The Deliverance of Saint Peter from Prison", the angel of the Lord seems to strike fear into the hearts of the soldiers that are guarding Saint Peter's cell. Raphael captures the heavenly light from the divine being in such a way that one can almost see the action taking place.
If one analyzes Raphael's works, there are reasons for the harmony and realistic perspective. Raphael looked back to ancient Roman architecture when painting buildings, the subjects always came from antiquity, such as Plato and Socrates. The bodies of Raphael's figures were muscular and idealized and full of motion and gestures, further adding to the realism. In the short thirty seven years of his life, Raphael summarized and epitomized the entire course of Italian humanism. (Taylor, 56) Even though Raphael did not live as long as Leonardo or Michelangelo, he will always be ranked along with them as one of the greatest artists of all time.
Taylor, Frances Henry. "Fifty Centuries of Art." Harper and Brother, New York, 1960.
"What Makes a Raphael a Raphael." The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1993.
Pioch, Nicholas. "Raphael." Webmuseum, Paris. Online. Http.sunsite.unc.edu.