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Raphael

Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino

Raphael

Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino

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Considered one of great master painters, Raphael was an Italian painter and architect in the High Renaissance. Raphael, along with Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, are considered the great trinity of master painters of the High Renaissance period. He was a prolific artist, and despite death at the young age of 37, has a considerable body of work to study.

Raphael was born into an artistic family, as his father was the court painter to The Duke of Urbino. After his mother’s death in 1491 and his father’s death in 1494, eleven year old Raphael, who had already shown artistic talent, played a large role in continuing his father’s painting studio. He was first described as a fully-trained master painter in 1501, roughly around the age of 19. Even at this early stage in his career, he was in high demand, and completed many commissioned works. Raphael continued to paint, traveling constantly, living the life of a semi-nomadic painter. He was able to merge the influence of Florentine art with his own developing style, creating a smooth, flowing composition, which was highly regarded.

The three great masters, Raphael, Leondardo da Vinci, and Michelangelo, were all contemporaries. Leonardo was thirty years Raphael’s senior, and the younger painter incorporated many elements of da Vinci’s paintings in to his own works. Michelangelo, on the other hand, was only eight years Raphael’s senior. Michelangelo already did not like Leonardo, and he disliked the rising popularity of Raphael even more, starting conspiracies and spreading rumors about Raphael.

In 1508, Raphael moved to Rome, where he would reside for the rest of his life. His first major work inn Rome was a commission to decorate the Pope’s private library, the Stanza della Segnatura. After he finished this room, the Pope was so pleased with his work that he assigned him to other rooms of the building, displacing other artists who had been commissioned to complete the works.

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Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino (Italian: [raffaˈɛllo ˈsantsjo da urˈbiːno]; March 28 or April 6, 1483 – April 6, 1520), known as Raphael (/ˈræfeɪəl/, US: /ˈræfiəl, ˌrɑːfaɪˈɛl/), was an Italian painter and architect of the High Renaissance. His work is admired for its clarity of form, ease of composition, and visual achievement of the Neoplatonic ideal of human grandeur. Together with Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, he forms the traditional trinity of great masters of that period.

Raphael was enormously productive, running an unusually large workshop and, despite his death at 37, leaving a large body of work. Many of his works are found in the Vatican Palace, where the frescoed Raphael Rooms were the central, and the largest, work of his career. The best known work is The School of Athens in the Vatican Stanza della Segnatura. After his early years in Rome much of his work was executed by his workshop from his drawings, with considerable loss of quality. He was extremely influential in his lifetime, though outside Rome his work was mostly known from his collaborative printmaking.

After his death, the influence of his great rival Michelangelo was more widespread until the 18th and 19th centuries, when Raphael's more serene and harmonious qualities were again regarded as the highest models. His career falls naturally into three phases and three styles, first described by Giorgio Vasari: his early years in Umbria, then a period of about four years (1504–1508) absorbing the artistic traditions of Florence, followed by his last hectic and triumphant twelve years in Rome, working for two Popes and their close associates.

Raphael was born in the small but artistically significant central Italian city of Urbino in the Marche region, where his father Giovanni Santi was court painter to the Duke. The reputation of the court had been established by Federico III da Montefeltro, a highly successful condottiere who had been created Duke of Urbino by the Pope – Urbino formed part of the Papal States – and who died the year before Raphael was born. The emphasis of Federico's court was rather more literary than artistic, but Giovanni Santi was a poet of sorts as well as a painter, and had written a rhymed chronicle of the life of Federico, and both wrote the texts and produced the decor for masque-like court entertainments. His poem to Federico shows him as keen to show awareness of the most advanced North Italian painters, and Early Netherlandish artists as well. In the very small court of Urbino he was probably more integrated into the central circle of the ruling family than most court painters.

Federico was succeeded by his son Guidobaldo da Montefeltro, who married Elisabetta Gonzaga, daughter of the ruler of Mantua, the most brilliant of the smaller Italian courts for both music and the visual arts. Under them, the court continued as a centre for literary culture. Growing up in the circle of this small court gave Raphael the excellent manners and social skills stressed by Vasari. Court life in Urbino at just after this period was to become set as the model of the virtues of the Italian humanist court through Baldassare Castiglione's depiction of it in his classic work The Book of the Courtier, published in 1528. Castiglione moved to Urbino in 1504, when Raphael was no longer based there but frequently visited, and they became good friends. He became close to other regular visitors to the court: Pietro Bibbiena and Pietro Bembo, both later cardinals, were already becoming well known as writers, and would be in Rome during Raphael's period there. Raphael mixed easily in the highest circles throughout his life, one of the factors that tended to give a misleading impression of effortlessness to his career. He did not receive a full humanistic education however; it is unclear how easily he read Latin.

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