views updated Jun 11 2018



Born Raffaello Sanzio, April 6, 1483, in Urbino, Italy; died as the result of a fever, April 6, 1520, in Rome, Italy; son of Giovanni Santi (a painter). Education: Studied with father, Giovanni Santi; trained with Perugino, 1500-04.


Painter and architect. Commissioned by Pope Julius II and Pope Leo X, Rome, Italy, 1508-20, to create fresco decorations of Vatican suites (Stanza della Segnatura, 1508-11, Stanza d'Eliodoro, 1511-14) and design St. Peter's Church. Principal artworks include Mond Crucifixion, 1502-03, Marriage of the Virgin, 1504, Small Cowper Madonna, c. 1505, Saint George and the Dragon, c. 1506, La Belle Jardiniè, 1507, Deposition of Christ, 1507, Dispute over the Sacrament, 1509-10, School of Athens, 1510-11, Portrait of a Cardinal, c. 1510-12, Pope Julius II, 1511-12, Madonna di Foligno, c. 1512, The Nymph Galatea, c. 1512-14, The Sistine Madonna, c. 1512-14, The Burning of the Borgo, 1514, Portrait of Baldassare Castiglione, 1514-15, La Spasimo di Sicilia, c. 1516, The Miraculous Draught of Fishes, c. 1516-19, Pope Leo X with Two Cardinals, 1518, La Fornarina, 1518, and Transfiguration of Christ, 1520. Architect of St. Eligio degli Orefici, Rome (with Bramante), 1509, Chigi Chapel, St. Maria del Popolo, Rome, c. 1512-13, Palazzo Vidoni-Caffarelli, Rome, and Palazzo Branconio del'Aquila, Rome, 1520. Exhibitions: Works included in permanent collections at Alte Pinakothek, Munich, Germany; Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia; J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, CA; Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria; Louvre, Paris, France; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY; National Gallery, London, England; Museo Prado, Madrid Spain; Vatican Museums, Vatican City; Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy; and Galleria Borghese, Rome, Italy, among others.


"Leonardo promises Heaven, but Raphael, he gives it to us," famed artist Pablo Picasso once said. The sixteenth-century Italian artist whom the world has come to know by one name, Raphael, was a painter and architect for popes at age 25, a friendly competitor of the fiery Michelangelo, and a devoted aesthetician who died at the age of 37. Considered the supreme representative of Italian High Renaissance classicism, Raphael is positioned alongside da Vinci, Titian, and Michelangelo at the pinnacle of Renaissance art. Blending the styles of a variety of painters, Raphael created his own unmistakably sweet style, characterized by coloring, versatility, and composition.

Raphael's best-known works, including School of Athens and Dispute over the Sacrament, were conceived as fresco wall decorations for the Vatican apartments, and were painted when Raphael was in his late twenties. When Raphael died in 1520, he was at the height of his powers and fame; in the nearly half a millennium since his passing, his reputation as an innovator has never wavered. Though some, like Donald Bruce, reviewing a modern exhibit of Raphael's early work for Contemporary Review, could complain that "Raphael's brilliance shines but does not warm," the overwhelming critical assessment ranks Raphael as a master craftsman. So well known is his work, in fact, that the brilliance of the paintings is often taken for granted. As Arthur C. Danto noted in the Nation, "The grinding familiarity of the Raphaelesque idiom blinds us to his originality, while Modernism itself desensitizes us to the inducements of the academic maniera [manner] he invented." Danto went on to comment, "The price of having been perhaps the most influential artist in history is that Raphael, today, looks too—academic. Too pure, too perfect, too polished, too subject to the rules that were based on his great achievements."

Twice Orphaned

Raphael was born Raffaello Sanzio in 1483. His place of birth was Urbino in central Italy where his father, the painter Giovanni Santi, worked for the ruling family of Frederico da Montefeltro. Thus Raphael grew up in a courtly milieu, with access to the learning and erudition, as well as the pomp and ceremony, that such a court offered. It is said that as a baby he was nursed by his mother rather than by a peasant wet nurse as was the custom of the time. His father insisted on this so that his son would avoid coming into contact with the rougher elements of the world. His childhood was, according to Peter Schjeldahl, writing in the New Yorker, "sheltered, rich in aristocratic culture, and industrious." Raphael's beloved mother died when the boy was only eight; his father died three years later. By this time, the eleven-year-old Raphael was already working in his father's workshop. Put into the care of one of his uncles, Giovanni, he found an "artistic foster father in Giovanni's associate, Timoteo Viti," according to Bruce. Viti continued to train the young painter, a task his father had previously undertaken; however, Viti soon was learning from the precocious youth.

Into the World

Like his father, Raphael venerated the painter known as Perugino. According to Bruce, "Perugino runs through Raphael's early work like the stripe through an agate." In fact, his early work so resembles Perugino's that early biographers assumed he became part of Perugino's studio immediately after the death of his father. However, records show that Raphael did not become Perugino's apprentice until he was seventeen years old, in 1500. But he was more than an apprentice. By this time a master painter, he joined Perugino's workshop in that status. Over the next four years he painted altarpieces for churches in Perugia and in Città di Castello. He also painted numerous sacred subjects for the patrician families of Perugia, including the Coronation of the Virgin and the Marriage of the Virgin. Among the altarpieces, one of the best known of these early works is the Mond Crucifixion. He also painted numerous Madonnas. Throughout these years, Raphael's work closely resembled that of Perugino, but the young artist was eager to move on to broader horizons, to build his own artistic idiom.

In 1504, now age twenty-one, Raphael arrived in Florence, a city much dominated by the art of Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. From this point on, Perugino disappears from Raphael's style, replaced by influences from these other two masters. An early portrait from this period closely resembles da Vinci's Mona Lisa, down to a similar perplexing smile. His Bridgewater Madonna from 1507 contains a Christ child lifted directly from a relief by Michelangelo. But he was also perfecting his own style during the Florence years, working on commissions not only in that city but also in other Tuscan cities, such as Siena, and also spending time in Urbino and Perugia. As his fame began to spread, commissions came from more distant places. None, however, were so grand as that from the pope himself in Rome.

Papal Painter and Architect

Through the influence of a distant relative, architect Donato Bramante, Raphael was summoned to Rome by Pope Julius II in 1508. There he was commissioned to decorate several suites of rooms in the Vatican, producing frescoes and tapestry cartoons. These works, according to Schjeldahl, "realize a genius for architecturally integrated design—mighty compositions of vivacious figures in deep space, appearing to expand the real area of a room," and constitute "Raphael's original, sadly truncated, contribution to art." Again, Michelangelo proved an inspiration for the younger painter, for the older artist was hard at work on the Sistine Chapel ceiling nearby, and Raphael was able to study the ongoing work.

The first of the rooms Raphael decorated, the Stanza della Segnatura, was completed around 1511 and contains one of his most famous works, the School of Athens. These rooms were intended for use by the pope as a library, thus the themes of the paintings deal with theology, philosophy, poetry, and jurisprudence. Raphael's School of Athens thus depicts a group of philosophers with Plato and Aristotle at the center, gathered under a vaulted dome. Also for this room is the famous Dispute over the Sacrament, also known as Disputa.

Raphael then began work on the Stanza d'Eliodoro, each of whose walls was painted with some historical or legendary narrative that had special significance for the current pope. Meanwhile, the industrious Raphael began to work for wealthy banker Agostini Chigi as both a painter and architect, designing chapels and stables. It was also during his early years in Rome that he made contact with engraver Marcantonio Raimondi, who created plates of Raphael's drawings that helped to spread the artist's fame.

Fame indeed came to the handsome young man. "Rome fell hard for Raphael's charisma," noted Schjeldahl. Similarly, Richard Cork, writing in the New Statesman, commented that "by age 28, Raphael had become a legendary figure." Jackie Wullschlager, writing in the Financial Times, felt also that in his last seven years, "Raphael began to show signs of incorporating greater toughness, agitation, violence even, into his sublimely graceful compositions." These qualities were found in such paintings as the Sistine Madonna and a portrait of the courtier Baldassare Castiglione, a personal friend of the artist. The death of Pope Julius II did not diminish Raphael's position at the Vatican. Julius's successor, Pope Leo X, put Raphael in charge of all the classical structures of Rome and commissioned him to create a map of the city as it had appeared in ancient times. Raphael also served as chief architect of St. Peter's and of several other churches and palaces in Rome. A consummate organizer, he also conceived a new studio system, in which his workers were not merely assigned drudgework, but were considered fellow painters and collaborators. Much of the painting signed by Raphael in the last decade of his life was, in fact, the work of his studio based on his original sketches. At his death in 1520, Raphael had started work on another Vatican apartment, for which he had completed the drawings of the Battle of Milvan Bridge. He was also at work on the Transfiguration, depicting passages from the New Testament.

Raphael's early death was mourned in Rome as if he had been a papal legate himself. His influence was felt far and wide. In immediate terms, he became one of the progenitors of the style known as Mannerism, and his innovations in the painting of domes were used by baroque painters. Some of Titian's most famous portraits were deeply influenced by Raphael, and Raphael's techniques, from the way he mixed paint to his practice of drawing from a nude model to the manner in which he handled fabric and drapery in his paintings, later became part of the training of the classical painter.

If you enjoy the works of Raphael

If you enjoy the works of Raphael, you may also want to check out the following:

The art of other Italian High Renaissance painters, including Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Giorgione, Titian, and Giovanni Bellini.

The Modern Viewpoint

In the modern era Raphael has suffered somewhat by comparison with his two famous contemporaries, da Vinci and Michelangelo, whose art and personalities both seem to tally more with modern sensibilities. Raphael's art is sometimes under-appreciated because so many other artists have borrowed heavily from him, and thus his originality is sometimes lost simply because of his fame. Also, the engravings which helped to make him famous have also made him seem commonplace, featuring as they often do the most saccharine of his Madonnas. And though Raphael was known in his time as a lady's man who, though he never married, would not travel to a new commission unless room was made for his mistress, little of this sensuality comes through in his work.

Raphael's formalism also distances some modern viewers. As Danto noted, "Like a very successful professor, he appears to have had a career rather than a life." Schjeldahl went so far as to say that Raphael's "version of the beautiful is the sublime of the pretty: sheer comeliness to the nth power." For Schjeldahl, Raphael's paintings "lack the element of reverent awe that informs beauty. They are about liking, albeit intense liking, rather than love." Despite such criticism, however, Raphael remains, as a contributor for the International Dictionary of Art and Artists noted, "one of the key masters of the High Renaissance style."

Biographical and Critical Sources


Ames-Lewis, Francis, The Draftsman Raphael, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 1986.

Baldini, Nicoletta, Raphael, Rizzoli (New York, NY), 2005.

Beck, James, Raphael, Harry N. Abrams (New York, NY), 1976.

Brown, David and Jane Van Nimmen, Raphael and the Beautiful Banker: The Story of the Bindo Altoviti Portrait, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 2005.

Chapman, Hugo, and others, Raphael: From Urbino to Rome, National Gallery (London, England), 2004.

Clayton, Martin, Raphael and His Circle: Drawings from Windsor Castle, Rizzoli (New York, NY), 1999.

Cornini, Guido, and others, Raphael in the Apartments of Julius II and Leo X: Papal Monuments, Museums, Galleries, Electa (Milan, Italy), 1993.

De Vecchi, Pierluigi, Raphael, Abbeville Press (New York, NY), 2002.

Dewez, Guy, Villa Madama: A Memoir Relating to Raphael's Project, Princeton Architectural Press (New York, NY), 1993.

Fischel, Oskar, Raphael, two volumes, translated by B. Rackham, Kegan Paul (London, England), 1948.

Freedberg, Sydney J., Painting in Italy, 1500-1600, Penguin Books (London, England), 1975.

Hall, Marcia, Raphael's "School of Athens," Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1997.

Hall, Marcia B., The Cambridge Companion to Raphael, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 2005.

Hartt, Frederick, History of Italian Renaissance Art: Painting, Sculpture, Architecture, 3rd edition, Harry N. Abrams (New York, NY), 1987.

Hersey, George L., High Renaissance Art in St. Peter's and the Vatican: An Interpretive Guide, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1993.

International Dictionary of Architects and Architecture, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1993.

International Dictionary of Art and Artists, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1990.

Jones, Roger, and Nicholas Penny, Raphael, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 1983.

Salmi, Mario, editor, Raphael: The Complete Works, Reynal (New York, NY), 1969.

Santi, Bruno, Raphael, Riverside Book (New York, NY), 1997.


Apollo, October, 2004, Tom Henry, "Raphael and Siena," p. 50; December, 2004, David Ekserdjian, "The Making of Raphael," p. 76.

Artforum International, September, 2004, David Drogin, "Urbino Legend," p. 92.

Contemporary Review, December, 2004, Donald Bruce, "Raphael at the National Gallery," p. 346.

Financial Times (London, England), October 20, 2004, Jackie Wullschlager, "Young Master Teaches Us to Read the Classics," p. 13.

Nation, December 19, 1987, Arthur C. Danto, "Raphael's Drawings," p. 765.

New Statesman, November 1, 2004, Richard Cork, "The Angel Raphael," p. 39.

Newsweek, December 13, 2004, Peter Plagens, "Woman of Mystery," p. 68.

New Yorker, November 22, 2004, Peter Schjeldahl, "The Charmer," p. 104.


Artchive.com, http://www.artchive.com/ (April 20, 2005), "Raphael."

Grove Art Online, http://www.groveart.com/ (April 21, 2005), Nicholas Penny, "Raphael."

Guardian Online, http://www.guardian.co.uk/ (November 25, 2000).

International Herald Tribune Online, http://www.iht.com/ (April 24, 1999), Roderick Conway Morris, "Raphael's Studio and Legacy"; (June 17, 2000), Souren Melikian, "Raphael: Emotions beneath the Paint."

National Gallery, http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/ (April 20, 2005), "Raphael."

Web Gallery of Art, http://www.wga.hu/ (April 20, 2005), "Raffaello Sanzio."

WebMuseum, http://www.ibiblio.org/wm/ (April 20, 2005), "Raphael."


views updated Jun 11 2018


April 6, 1483
Urbino, Italy
April 6, 1520
Rome, Italy

Painter, architect

The Italian painter and architect Raffaello Sanzio, called Raphael, is considered the supreme representative of the High Renaissance (1495–1520). This was the period when artistic expression reached its height in Italy, home of the Renaissance. Since the Renaissance began in the early 1400s, art had been based on concepts from classical, or ancient, Greek and Roman culture. Paintings were characterized by balanced proportions (harmonious arrangement of shapes and details), idealized images, and rich colors. Renaissance artists gave particular attention to achieving a sense of depth, or three dimensions, by using a technique called linear perspective. Invented by the Italian architect Filippo Brunelleschi (1377–1446), linear perspective is a system derived from mathematics in which all elements of a composition are measured and arranged from a single point of view, or perspective.

Moves to Florence

Raphael was born in Urbino, the son of Giovanni Santi, a painter. He was trained by his father, who died in 1494. Sometime thereafter Raphael joined the workshop of Perugino (Pietro Vannucci; c. 1450–1523), the most renowned painter in central Italy at the time. Raphael adopted Perugino's style and received several commissions. During his four years with Perugino, Raphael showed a remarkable ability to adapt borrowed ideas within a very personal style. Many works of this period, such as the Mond Crucifixion (1503), are in stylistic detail almost indistinguishable from Perugino's gentle technique, but they have a clarity and harmony that are lacking in Perugino's work. Raphael's last painting before leaving Perugino was Marriage of the Virgin (1504). It is primarily modeled on Perugino's version of the same subject. Raphael's design, however, has a greater sense of space and the figures are portrayed more accurately. Raphael also communicated the dramatic significance of the subject without the artificiality of pose and gesture seen in Perugino's work.

In 1504 Raphael moved to Florence, the center of Renaissance art. When he arrived he discovered that his style was unsophisticated compared with the recent innovations of the great Florentine painters Michelangelo (1475–1564; see entry) and Leonardo (1452–1519; see entry). Raphael was especially attracted to Leonardo's work. During the next four years he painted a series of Madonnas (pictures of Mary, mother of Jesus Christ) that incorporated Leonardo's techniques. One technique was sfumato, which involves defining a form by blending one color into another rather than using distinct outlines. It was principally, however, Michelangelo's Battle of Cascina rather than Leonardo's companion piece, the Battle of Anghiari, that provided the dramatic ideas used by Raphael in his most ambitious Florentine work, the Entombment (1507). During his stay in Florence he was also commissioned to do several portraits.

Paints School of Athens

In 1508 Raphael went to Rome to decorate the apartment of Pope Julius II (1433–1516; reigned 1503–13), the Stanza della Segnatura, at the Vatican (residence of the pope, who is the supreme head of the Roman Catholic Church). This work, which Raphael completed in 1511, consists of panels that represent the four areas of divinely inspired human intellect: theology (the study of religion), poetry, philosophy (the search for a general understanding of values and reality through speculative thinking), and law. The panel on philosophy, titled The School of Athens, is considered one of Raphael's greatest achievements. The two central figures are the ancient Greek philosophers Plato (c. 428–348 b.c.) and Aristotle (384–322 b.c.). As an idealist (one who believes that ultimate truth exists outside nature) Plato points heavenward, and the realist (one who finds truth in the known world) Aristotle gestures toward the ground. Around them are grouped many other classical philosophers and scientists, each indicating clearly by expression and gesture the character of his intellect. Raphael's painting technique is so precise that every detail in the School of Athens contributes to a balanced effect and conveys a sense of quiet grandeur.

Raphael's architecture

In addition to achieving fame as a painter, Raphael was an architect. In 1509 he began working with Donato di Pascuccio d'Antonio (called Bramante; 1444–1514), the first influential Renaissance architect. Art historians speculate that Raphael was preparing to take over the post of capomastro (supervisor) of the rebuilding of Saint Peter's Basilica, the main church of the Roman Catholic faith, in Rome. Bramante died in 1514 and Raphael became capomastro, but progress on Saint Peter's was very slow during the next six years. Raphael's only contribution seems to have been suggesting the addition of a nave, or main part of a church to Bramante's design.

Raphael's first architectural work was the Saint Eligio degli Orefici church in Rome, which he designed in collaboration with Bramante in 1509. The building that more clearly shows Raphael's ornate decorative style is the Chigi Chapel in Saint Maria del Popolo (1513), also located in Rome. A similar emphasis on richness of texture and detailing can be seen in Raphael's two Roman palaces, the Palazzo Vidoni-Caffarelli and the Palazzo Branconio dell'Aquila (c.1520), both of which were destroyed. As in his last paintings, Raphael was moving away from the simple lines and shapes of Renaissance architecture to the more elaborate style of mannerism (the term given to the more expressive art of the sixteenth century).

Oversees productive workshop

After Raphael completed the Stanza della Segnatura, Julius commissioned him to decorate the adjacent room, the Stanza d' Elidoro (the audience chamber). Julius died before it was finished, but his successor, Pope Leo X (1475–1521; reigned 1513–21), told Raphael to continue. The pope eventually assigned him two more rooms, the Stanza dell' Incendio (the meeting room of the Catholic Church's supreme court) and the Sala di Constantino. Very quickly, Raphael became popular with Roman patrons, or wealthy supporters of the arts. Commissions of all sorts poured into his workshop during the last six years of his life. By this time he was relying on assistants. For instance, frescoes (wall paintings) in the Stanza dell'Incendio (1514–17) were based on his design but executed almost entirely by assistants, as was the fresco decoration of the Vatican loggias, or porches (1517–19). Many of his assistants were more collaborators (artists who produce works with other artists) than apprentices (beginning artists who learn from a master artist), and some were older than he. In 1515 he had what was probably the largest painting workshop that had ever been assembled. Reportedly, fifty artists accompanied Raphael daily to the Vatican.

Raphael also was much in demand by aristocrats (members of the upper social class) who wanted him to paint their portraits. In 1517 Raphael painted one of his best-known portraits, that of Baldassare Castiglione (1478–1529; see entry), author of the popular Book of the Courtier. Like most of Raphael's finest portraits, it is the depiction of a close friend. Castiglione is portrayed with great psychological insight, his gentle, scholarly face perfectly suited to the man, who in Book of the Courtier defined the qualities of the ideal gentleman. Descriptions of Raphael's own pleasant disposition and courteous manner indicate that he himself possessed the qualities Castiglione wished to find in the perfect courtier.

Capitalizes on art market

Raphael had by now developed his own style, which consisted of a distinctive use of color and an emphasis on gesture and movement. This style is evident is such works as the cartoons that depict the lives of two early church fathers,


Another important painter working at the same time as Raphael was Titian (Tiziano Vecellio; c. 1488–1576). Titian was born in Pieve di Cadore, Italy. He achieved fame as an interpreter of classical mythology with three paintings—Andrians, Worship of Venus, and Bacchus and Ariadne—which he composed for Alfonso d'Este's castle in Ferrara between 1518 and 1523. One of his best-known early works is the Assumption of the Virgin (1516–18), which marked the triumph of the High Renaissance in Venice. During the 1520s Titian produced the Pesaro Madonna (1519–26), in which he used color, light, and atmosphere to establish a new formula for Venetian altars that continued into the following century.

An important event in Titian's career was his trip to Bologna in 1530 to attend the coronation of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V (1500–1558). At this time the artist painted his first portrait of the emperor in armor. In 1545 Titian traveled to Rome, and saw the glories of the ancient city as well as the masterpieces of Raphael and Michelangelo. Among the numerous works he produced during his brief stay in Rome was Paul III and His Grandsons, which depicts a dramatic encounter between the aged pope and his scheming grandsons. It is considered one of the most psychologically revealing works in the history of portraiture. In 1548 Charles V called Titian to Augsburg, Germany. The artist painted the celebrated equestrian portrait, Charles V at Mühlberg, which commemorated the emperor's victory over the German Protestants in the Battle of Mühlberg in 1547. In this work Titian established a type of equestrian portrait that presents the ruler as a symbol of power. Titian also produced portraits of members of the emperor's court. The most important is that of Charles's son, Prince Philip (1527–1598), dressed in armor, which set a standard for state portraits. The prince later became Philip II, king of Spain. In the 1550s Philip II commissioned Titian to paint religious pictures for the monastery (a house for monks, members of a religious order) of the Escorial, the royal palace in Spain. Among them was the Last Supper (1557–64). During the same period Titian also executed mythological works for the Escorial, such as the Rape of Europa. Titian continued to explore the depths of human character in his portraits until the end of his life. His late religious pictures convey a mood of universal tragedy, as in the Annunciation (c.1565) and the Christ Crowned with Thorns. The Pietà which was unfinished at his death, was intended for his own tomb chapel. When Titian died at his spacious palace in Venice, he was universally recognized as one of the great masters.

Saints Peter and Paul. (At that time a cartoon had not yet come to mean a satirical or humorous drawing. Instead, it was a preparatory design or drawing for a fresco.) Other typical works were the decoration (begun 1519) of the Villa Farnesina in Rome and Raphael's largest canvas painting, the Transfiguration, which was commissioned in 1517 but remained incomplete at his death. The Peter and Paul cartoons were sent to Flanders to be worked into tapestries (large embroidered wall hangings) for the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican and were partly responsible for the adoption of Raphael's style throughout Europe. His work was also spread through engravings, or images made by printing from etched steel plates. The market for art prints was just then getting established and Raphael was one of the first to take advantages of it. Raphael supplied unused drawings and designs to engravers, who were required to follow his instructions regarding the production of images. He collaborated with the engraver Marcantonio Raimondi (c. 1480–c. 1534) and then allied himself with a businessman known as Il Bavieri, who was responsible for selling the engravings. Raphael appears to have set certain conditions with engravers to control quality and his copyright (exclusive legal right to the sale and reproduction of a work), and he received most of the profits for these engravings.

When Raphael died in Rome at age thirty-seven his art was developing in new directions. The High Renaissance, which had reached its peak around 1510, had passed. Raphael's pupils began incorporating characteristics of the mannerist style in the last works of their great master. Raphael had made major contributions to painting. He invented new modes of composing a picture and new techniques for using color, which were often imitated.

Raphael was a master of linear perspective, which was evolving throughout the High Renaissance. He also invented the concept of modes of coloring, in that he was the first to select a color style to match a project. This was an innovation because, in the traditional workshop of the fifteenth century, a master typically had only one color style, which he taught to his apprentices. As a result of Raphael's experimentations with color, the next generation of painters felt liberated to vary their choice of colors with each commission and to develop new modes.

Raphael's reputation suffered in the twentieth century because his style had been adopted as the model for academic art, beginning in the French Academy of the sixteenth century. Elements of his methods were taught to young painters as strict rules. This practice contradicted the freedom that Raphael allowed his own students and collaborators. It was also inconsistent with his experimental approach, in which he never repeated himself. Nevertheless, Raphael has been recognized as one of the greatest European painters, not only of the Renaissance but of all time.

For More Information


Cole, Bruce. Titian and Venetian Painting, 1450–1590. Boulder, Colo.: Icon Editions/Westview Press, 1999.

Cuzin, Jean-Pierre. Raphael: His Life and Works. Secaucus, N.J.: Chartwell Books, 1985.

Mühlberger, Richard. What makes a Raphael a Raphael? New York: Viking, 1993.

Venezia, Mike. Raphael. New York: Children's Press, 2001.

Video Recordings

Masterpieces of Italian Art, Volume: Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael and Titian. New York: VPI-AC Video Inc., 1990.

Web Sites

Pioch, Nicolas. "Raphael." WebMuseum. [Online] Available http://sunsite.unc.edu/wm/paint/auth/raphael, April 5, 2002.

Pioch, Nicolas. "Vecellio, Tiziano—Titian." WebMuseum.http://sunsite.unc.edu/wm/paint/auth/titian/, April 5, 2002.

"Raphael." MSN Encarta. [Online] Available http://encarta.msn.com/find/Concise.asp?z=1&pg=2&ti=761570572, April 5, 2002.

"Raphael, Sanzio." Raphael, Stanza e Loggia. [Online] Available http://www.christusrex.org/www1/stanzas/0-Raphael.html, April 5, 2002.


views updated May 21 2018


The Italian painter and architect Raphael (1483-1520) was the supreme representative of Italian High Renaissance classicism.

Raffaello Sanzio, called Raphael, was born on April 6, 1483, in Urbino. His father, Giovanni Santi, was a painter and doubtless taught Raphael the rudiments of technique. Santi died when his son was 11 years old. Raphael's movements before 1500, when he joined the workshop of Perugino, are obscure, but he evidently fully absorbed the 15th-century classicism of Piero della Francesca's paintings and of the architecture of the Ducal Palace at Urbino and the humanist tradition of the court.

During his 4 years with Perugino, Raphael's eclectic disposition and remarkable ability to assimilate and adapt borrowed ideas within a very personal style were already apparent. Many works of this period, such as the Mond Crucifixion (1502/1503), are in stylistic detail almost indistinguishable from Perugino's gentle sweetness, but they have an inherent clarity and harmony lacking in Perugino's work. Raphael's last painting before moving to Florence, the Marriage of the Virgin (1504), is primarily modeled on Perugino's version of the same subject, but the compositional design is reinterpreted with greater spatial sensitivity, the figures are more accurately built, and the dramatic significance is transmitted without the artificiality of pose and gesture of the prototype.

Florentine Period

When Raphael arrived in Florence late in 1504, it must have been evident to him that his Peruginesque style was dated and provincial compared with the recent innovations of Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci. It was to the latter's work that he was temperamentally more attracted, and during the next 3 years he executed a series of Madonnas that adapted and elaborated compositions and ideas of Leonardo's, culminating in La Belle jardinie‧re (1507). Here Raphael's own artistic personality was somewhat submerged in his fervent examination of the principles of Leonardesque design, modeling, and expressive depth. Raphael adopted Leonardo's sfumato modeling and characteristic pyramidal composition, yet the essential sense of clarity deriving from his 15th-century classical background was not undermined.

It was principally, however, Michelangelo's Battle of Cascina rather than Leonardo's companion piece, the Battle of Anghiari, that provided the dramatic ideas used by Raphael in his most ambitious Florentine work, the Entombment (1507). But perhaps unable yet to understand entirely the imaginative power of Michelangelo's works from which he borrowed, Raphael here failed to combine the figures, expressions, and emotions with the unforced balance and harmony of his later narrative works.

Stanza della Segnatura

Raphael left for Rome in 1508 and seems to have been at work in the Vatican Stanze by early 1509. Pope Julius II's enlightened patronage stimulated the simultaneous creation of the two greatest High Renaissance fresco cycles: Michel-angelo's Sistine Chapel ceiling and Raphael's Stanza della Segnatura. Whereas Michelangelo's frescoes are a masterpiece of titanic creative imagination, Raphael's are the epitome of classical grandeur and harmony, disciplined in overall conception, artistic thought, and clarity of individual compositions and figures.

The theme of the Stanza della Segnatura (completed in 1511), eminently suited to Raphael's thoughtful humanism, is divinely inspired human intellect in four spheres: theology, poetry, philosophy, and law. The earliest of the principal scenes to be painted, the Disputa‧ (representing Theology), shows Raphael still developing from his Florentine style in the light of the enormous challenge of the stanza: never before had he undertaken a decorative scheme on this scale. It is not until the so-called School of Athens (representing Philosophy), the zenith of pure High Renaissance culture, that Raphael reaches complete, independent artistic maturity.

The disposition of each figure in this great fresco is so precisely calculated as, paradoxically, to achieve the impression of absolute freedom. The ingenuity with which the grand, harmonious space is mapped out by the figures, emphasized by the superbly rich Bramantesque architecture behind, is concealed by the overall compositional balance and the monumentally calm atmosphere. The compositional lines and the distant arch focus attention on the two central figures, which set the tone of the painting in their expressive contrast: the idealist Plato points heavenward, while Aristotle, the realist, gestures flatly toward the ground. Around them are grouped many other classical philosophers and scientists, each indicating clearly by expression and gesture the character of his intellect—yet never obtrusively, for detail is throughout subordinated to the total balanced grandeur of effect.

Stanza d'Eliodoro

Divine intervention on behalf of the Church was the theme of the Stanza d'Eliodoro (decorated between 1511 and 1514). This subject gave Raphael greater scope for dynamic composition and movement, and the influence of Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel ceiling, completed in 1512, is noticeable. Compositional unity is achieved in Raphael's Expulsion of Heliodorus by the balance of emotional and expressive contrasts. This fresco and the Liberation of St. Peter, a brilliant display of the dramatic possibilities of unusual light sources, witness the beginnings in Raphael's work of expansion away from the dignity and purity of the School of Athens.

During the progress of the second stanza Julius II died. He was succeeded in 1513 by Leo X, who appears in the Repulsion of Attila, the last of the Stanza d'Eliodoro frescoes, executed primarily by Raphael's pupils. At this stage Raphael's assistants began to play an increasingly important role in the production of work to his designs, partly because Leo X's dispatch of Michelangelo to work on a Medici project in Florence left Raphael undisputedly the major artist in Rome.

Late Paintings

Commissions of all sorts poured into Raphael's workshop during the last 6 years of his life. The frescoes in the Stanza dell'Incendio (1514-1517) were based on his design but executed almost entirely by assistants, as was the fresco and stucco decoration of the Vatican loggias (1517-1519).

The monumental cartoons (in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London) depicting the lives of Saints Peter and Paul, the decoration (begun 1519) of the Villa Farnesina in Rome, and Raphael's largest canvas, the Transfiguration (commissioned in 1517 but incomplete at his death), all show a new dynamism and expressiveness. The cartoons were sent to Flanders to be worked into tapestries for the Sistine Chapel and were partly responsible for the dissemination of Raphael's late style, with its emphasis on gesture and movement, throughout Europe.

His Portraits

In portraiture Raphael's development follows the same pattern. His earliest portraits closely resemble those of Perugino, whereas in Florence Leonardo's Mona Lisa was a basic influence, as can be seen in the portraits of Agnolo and Maddalena Doni (1505). Raphael adapted Leonardo's majestic design as late as 1517 in the portrait of Baldassare Castiglione, which, like most of his finest portraits, is of a close friend. Castiglione is portrayed with great psychological subtlety, a gentle, scholarly face perfectly suited to the man, who in The Courtier defined the qualities of the ideal gentleman. Descriptions of Raphael's urbane good humor and courteous behavior in fact recall the very qualities that Castiglione wished to find in his perfect courtier.

His Architecture

So Bramantesque is the architecture of the School of Athens that it seems probable that Raphael was working with Donato Bramante as early as 1509, perhaps in preparation for his succession to the post of capomastro of the rebuilding of St. Peter's after Bramante's death in 1514. During the next 6 years, however, progress on St. Peter's was very slow, and his only contribution seems to have been the projected addition of a nave to Bramante's centrally planned design.

As early as the Marriage of the Virgin (1504), Raphael's painted architecture shows the pure classical spirit epitomized in Bramante's Tempietto at St. Pietro in Montorio, Rome (1502). This same unadorned structural clarity characterizes Raphael's first architectural work, the chapellike St. Eligio degli Orefici, Rome, designed in collaboration with Bramante (1509). The Chigi Chapel in St. Maria del Popolo, Rome (ca. 1512-1513), however, shows a much more ornate decorative idiom, although structurally it is almost identical with S. Eligio. A similar development in richness of texture and detailing can be seen between Raphael's two Roman palaces. The Palazzo Vidoni-Caffarelli is directly dependent on Bramante's so-called House of Raphael, but the richly ornamented facade decoration of the Palazzo Branconio dell'Aquila (ca. 1520; destroyed) is essentially unstructural. As in Raphael's last paintings, the tendency in these late architectural projects is toward a form of mannerism and away from the serene classicism of Bramante.

At the time of his death in Rome on Good Friday, 1520, at the age of 37, Raphael's art was developing in new directions, paralleled in his own very different way by Michelangelo in his Medici Chapel sculptures. The zenith of classical harmony and grandeur, reached about 1510, had passed, and it was left to Raphael's pupils to interpret and exploit the trends toward mannerism in the last works of their great master.

Further Reading

Studies of Raphael in English are limited. An important monograph in English is Oskar Fischel, Raphael (1948). John Pope-Hennessy, Raphael (1970), an excellent introduction to Raphael's art, concentrates on his working methods and reproduces many drawings and large details. See also Ettore Camesasca, All the Paintings of Raphael (1963). A fine specialized study is John Shearman, Raphael's Cartoons in the Royal Collection and the Tapestries for the Sistine Chapel (1972). Sydney Freedberg, Painting of the High Renaissance in Rome and Florence (1961), is a very useful survey of the period in general. □

Raphael (1483–1520)

views updated Jun 11 2018

Raphael (14831520)

A painter of the Italian Renaissance admired for the balance and harmony of his compositions, and who had a major influence on art of the later Baroque period. Born in the town of Urbino, he was the son of a painter, Giovanni Santi, who was a court painter to the Duke of Urbino, Federigo da Montefeltro. After the death of his father in 1494, the eleven-year-old Raphael took on greater responsibility for managing the Santi workshop, and quickly developed a reputation as one of the best painters in Urbino. His earliest known works are paintings done for the Church of San Nicola in the nearby town of Castello. In 1500 Raphael apprenticed to the painter Pietro Vannucci, also known as Perugino, under whom he developed a striking, expressive personal style in a series of religious paintings, including the Marriage of the Virgin, and the Mond Crucifixion. Ambitious and hardworking, he moved to Florence in 1504, and soon came under the influence of Leonardo da Vinci's paintings as well as the works of Fra Bartolommeo. The Mona Lisa of Leonardo served as a model for Raphael's portraits of Agnolo and Maddalena Doni, which he completed in 1505. In Florence, Raphael painted a series of Madonnas in which he adopted Leonardo's sfumato method of soft contours as well as Leonardo's typical pyramid composition, with complex groups of figures rising to a single point. His most famous work from this period, the Entombment, borrowed ideas from Michelangelo's painting Battle of Cascina.

In 1508 Raphael left Florence for Rome, where he was engaged by Pope Julius II to decorate a series of rooms known as the Stanza della Segnatura. These fresco paintings, which the artist completed in 1511, were based on the subjects of theology, philosophy, poetry, and law. They include The Triumph of Religion and The School of Athens, one of the most important works of the late Renaissance, in which classical philosophers gesture and pose in a setting of opulent grandeur. Over the following years Raphael also painted frescoes in the Stanza d'Eliodoro that include The Expulsion of Heliodorus, The Miracle of Bolsena, The Repulse of Attila from Rome by Leo I, and the Liberation of St. Peter. In his studio he completed a series of famous Madonnas, including the Sistine Madonna, The Madonna of the Chair, Madonna with the Fish, and the Alba Madonna.

The work he completed at the Vatican spread Raphael's name and fame throughout Italy. In Rome, he presided over one of the city's busiest and most successful workshops. Raphael hired a large staff of assistants to complete the frescoes in the Stanza dell'Incendio and the Vatican loggias between 1514 and 1519. In this period he also created a series of ten cartoons (designs) of the lives of Saint Peter and Saint Paul for tapestries that were to decorate the Sistine Chapel. These drawings were sent to workshops in Brussels, Belgium, where they helped to spread his fame and painting style to northern Europe.

In the meantime, the pope engaged Raphael as his chief architect after the death of Donato Bramante in 1514. Raphael designed chapels in Sant' Eligio degli Orefici and Santa Maria del Popolo in Rome, and a small section of the new Basilica of Saint Peter. He also designed several aristocratic palaces, adopting for them the classical style of Donato Bramante, adding detailed ornaments and flourishes that would become typical of later Renaissance and Baroque architecture.

In Rome Raphael also created several masterpieces of Renaissance portraiture, including famous paintings of Baldassare Castiglione, Pope Julius II, and the latter's successor, Pope Leo X. He collaborated with Marcantonio Raimondi in his printing shop to produce such engravings as The Massacre of the Innocents and Lucretia. These inexpensive prints were made by the thousands and circulated throughout Italy, making Raphael's name and works known to commoners as well as aristocrats. His largest painting, The Transfiguration, was still unfinished in 1520, when Raphael died suddenly at a young age and of mysterious causes.

See Also: Julius II; Leo X; Leonardo da Vinci; Michelangelo Buonarroti; painting


views updated May 23 2018

Raphael ( Raffaello Sanzio or Santi (1483–1520)). High Renaissance Urbino-born architect and painter of great distinction. Trained by his father, Giovanni Santi (d. 1494), and Pietro Perugino (1445/50–1523), whom he later assisted and soon surpassed, one of his early paintings. The Marriage of the Virgin (1504—far superior to Perugino's version of the same subject), depicts a polygonal domed building indicating a mature understanding of architecture, notably centrally planned buildings. Moving to Rome in 1508, he was commissioned by Pope Julius II (1503–13) to decorate the Stanza della Segnatura in the Vatican, including The School of Athens showing the ancient philosophers in an architectural setting that is a masterpiece of perspective, and evokes Antique Classicism.

His first architectural foray was the Church of Sant'Eligio degli Orefici, Rome (from c.1511, with later dome by Peruzzi, the whole rebuilt by Ponzio in C17). This was followed by the Mortuary Chapel of Agostino Chigi in Santa Maria del Pòpolo, Rome (from 1512), a centrally planned work of great authority owing its present appearance to Bernini, who completed it (1652–6). The Palazzo Pandolfini, Florence (begun c.1518), merged the Florentine style of the Palazzo Strozzi with the Roman style as epitomized in Bramante's ‘House of Raphael’ (Palazzo Caprini), and indeed it was from Bramante that Raphael took his precedents. In turn, his own buildings, though few in number, were soon recognized as exemplars as significant as Antique remains and the works of Bramante. Appointed Superintendent of Roman Antiquities by the Medici Pope Leo X (1513–21), in 1515, he may have been behind proposals to record all Roman ruins and restore some. The Villa Madama, which he began building near Rome (c.1516) for Cardinal Giulio de' Medici, the future Pope Clement VII (1523–34), is ample evidence of his feeling for Antiquity, notably in the loggia facing the garden, and aspects of the villa were derived from recently discovered vaults of the Domus Aurea (Golden House) of Nero and the so-called thermae of Titus, as well as from Pliny's description of his Laurentine villa. Embellished with reliefs of stucco and painted grotesques by Raphael's assistants (including Giulio Romano), the ensemble (though only partly completed) was an authoritative evocation of Antique interior décor. After Bramante's death Raphael was appointed magister operis (Master of the Works) of St Peter's, and proposed a basilican version of Bramante's plan.


Cable (1981a);
Chastel (1959, 1988);
C. Frommel et al. (1984);
Heydenreich (1996);
Lotz (1997);
Placzek (ed.) (1982);
S. Ray (1974);
Jane Turner (1996);
Tafuri (1966);
R. Weiss (1969);
Wittkower (1982, 1998)


views updated May 29 2018


An angel whose name means "God has healed." He first appeared in the Apocrypha, those honored but uncanonical books of the Hebrew people that were considered but not included in their Bible (i.e., the Christian Old Testament). The book of Tobit, written in the second century B.C.E. , concerns a man who was blind. Raphael was the angel sent to heal him. In the pseudepigraphical (falsely ascribed) book of Enoch it was said that: "Raphael presides over the spirits of men." In Jewish rabbinical legend of the angelic hierarchies, Raphael was the medium through which the power of Tsebaoth, or the Lord of Hosts, passed into the sphere of the sun, giving motion, heat, and brightness to it.

As one of the angels named in the ancient writings, Raphael reappears in the Kabalistic literatures of the Middle Ages. As an archangel, Raphael was identified with Hod, one of the ten sephiroth iminated by the Ein Soph (God) who implements God's creative purposes, in this case healing. He then reappears in a variety of magical operations of ceremonial magic and is one of the four angels called upon in, for example, the basic "Ritual of the Pentagram" which was taught to neophytes in the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.

The name "Raphael" was also adopted by pioneer British astrologer Robert Cross Smith (1795-1832) whose career really marks the beginning of the modern astrological revival from the low point of astrological interest in the eighteenth century. Smith founded a successful astrological publishing house and compiled Raphael's Astronomical Ephemeris, the book of sun, moon, and planet position for each day of the year, a necessary tool for the preparation of an accurate horoscope. Since his death, the publishing house continues to publish his ephemeris which remains one of the most popular used today.

Through the nineteenth century, individual astrologers also assumed the name and operated as "Raphael." Raphael II was John Palmer (1807-1837), editor of Raphael's Sanctuary of the Astral Art (1834), Raphael III was a Mr. Medhurst, who edited the Prophetic Messenger almanac (1837-ca. 1847), Raphael IV was Mr. Wakeley (d. 1853) who wrote under the name "Edwin Raphael," and Raphael V was a Mr. Sparkes (1820-1875) who edited The Oracle (May-June 1861). Raphael VI was Robert C. Cross (1850-1923) who acquired the Raphael copyrights, including the ephemeris. Since Cross's death, a company has continued the Raphael publications.


Christian, Paul. The History and Practice of Magic. New York: Citadel Press, 1969.

Halevi, Z'ev ben Shimon. A Kabbalistic Universe. New York: Samuel Weiser, 1977.

Lewis, James R. Astrology Encyclopedia. Detroit: Gale Research, 1994.

Regardie, Israel. The Golden Dawn. 4 vols. Chicago: Aries Press, 1937-40. Revised ed., St. Paul: Llewellyn Publications, 1969.


views updated May 18 2018


RAPHAEL , one of the chief angels. The name occurs in the Bible (i Chron. 26:7) but not yet as an angelic name, first appearing as such in the Apocrypha (Tob. 12:15 and i En. 20:3), where he is one of the seven archangels. In angelological systems built upon four archangels, he is one of the four; the others are Michael, *Gabriel, and *Uriel or Suriel (i En. 9:1–3). He defeats the demon Asmodeus (Tob. 3:17) and binds *Azazel, chief of the demons, throwing him into the abyss (i En. 10:4). As his name implies ("God is healing"), he is the angel set over all kinds of healing and this is his main function. The Talmud (Yoma 37a; bm 86) knows of him as one of the three angels who came to visit Abraham after he had circumcised himself. From the second century on, Jewish traditions referring to Raphael were taken over by both Christian angelology and syncretistic magic. His name occurs frequently in magical papyri in Greek and Coptic, on amulets, and in many Jewish and Mandean incantations. As a planetary angel he governs the sun, and in the division of the four corners of the world he commands the west. He is one of the four angels of the Presence who stand on the four sides of God, a notion taken over into the prayer at bedtime: "to my right Michael and to my left Gabriel, in front of me Uriel and behind me Raphael, and over my head God's Shekhinah ["the presence of God"]." According to esoteric Midrashim, his original name was Laviel or Buel but the name was changed to Raphael when he defended against the other angels God's decision to create man. In kabbalistic literature he keeps his high rank and is credited with many missions and functions. Among the four elements he governs earth; in the colors of the rainbow he represents green. M. Recanati even sees him as the angel who governs primordial matter before it divides up into the four elements. According to others, he commands the host of angels known as the ofannim. He is also ordained over one of the four rivers coming out of paradise. In the Zohar he is the angel who dominates the morning hours which bring relief to the sick and suffering.


M. Schwab, Vocabulaire de l'angélologie (1897), 10, 249; A. Kohuth, Die juedische Angelologie (1866), 35; C. Preisendanz, Papyri graecae magicae, 3 (1928), index; G. Davidson, A Dictionary of Angels (1967), 240–2; R. Margolioth, Malakhei Elyon (1945), 184–92.

[Gershom Scholem]


views updated May 21 2018

Raphael (1483–1520) ( Raphael Sanzio or Raphael Santi) Italian painter, one of the finest artists of the High Renaissance. Born in Urbino, Raphael absorbed humanism as a child. One of his most important commissions was the decoration of the four stanze (rooms) in the Vatican. He only completed two of these but the first, the Stanza della Segnatura, gave him the chance to exercise his skills to the full. The room contains two large frescos, the School of Athens and the Disputà, both of which show Raphael's mastery of perspective. After Bramante's death, he became architect to St Peter's, Rome.

http://www.christusrex.org; http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk; http://www.nga.gov


views updated May 23 2018

Raphael (Heb., ‘God is healing’). An angel recognized in Judaism and Christianity. Raphael appears in the Apocrypha (Tobit 12. 15 and 1 Enoch 20. 3).


views updated May 09 2018

Raphael (1483–1520) Biblical archangel who, with Michael, Gabriel, and Uriel, serves as a messenger of God. According to passages in the apocryphal Book of Tobit and the pseudigraphical Second Book of Enoch, he is one of the seven holy angels who present the prayers of the saints to God.