We all know the Marriage of the Virgin by Raffaello, but what else did he paint and where did he get his artistic education from? Swide tells you his story from early career to fame.
Raffaello Sanzio is the one of the most renowned Renaissance painters. Born in Urbino in 1483 son of Giovanni Santi and Magia di Battista di Nicola Ciarla, his date of birth is not agreed upon by all art historians: it could be March 28th or April 6th. His father, Giovanni Santi ("Sanzio" was derived from "Santi"), was an excellent painter, too, and portrayed Raffaello as a baby in the Capella Tiranni in Cagli.
It’s from his father - who worked for the Montefeltro, the reigning Court in Urbino - that he learned his artistic technique. Together with Florence and Rome, Urbino was then the cradle of the Renaissance. In the Palazzo Ducale, Raffaello got to admire the masters of art history; Piero della Francesca and Antonio del Pollaiolo, among others.
At 11 years of age, Raffaello lost his father, but his efforts in teaching his son how to paint was going to show in Raffaello’s art for his entire life. Raffaello continued his education in the Perugino workshop. One of his first works was, in fact for his own home, the Madonna col Bambino at Casa Santi (1498, Madonna with the Child).
Raffaello, Madonna with the Child
As a teenager Raffaello moved to Città di Castello (Umbria), where he painted two of his best known works: the Crocefissione Gavari (1503-1504) and Lo Sposalizio della Vergine (Wedding of the Virgin, 1504). Raffaello’s fame spread all over Umbria and between 1499 and 1504 he produced many portraits the Madonna: among them Madonna Solly, Madonna Diotallevi, Madonna col Bambino tra i Santi Girolamo e Francesco.
Raffaello, the Wedding of the Virgin
Conscious of the artistic movement in Florence, he left Città di Castello to be in the city and admire its artists (Michelangelo e Leonardo) and stayed there for 4 years. Here he painted the beautiful Madonna del Belvedere (The Virgin of the Meadow) that features a monumental Madonna who stands at the centre of the paintings, strong and graceful.
The Virgin of the Meadow
In 1508, the Pope Julius II required him to move to Rome for an altar piece, as he was calling all the greatest artist in Italy to renew the city artistically. Here he painted the renowned Scuola di Atene (School of Athens, 1509-1510), but also the fresco Liberazione di San Pietro (Deliverance of Saint Peter), that displays a master use of light.
Raffaello, School of Athens
Raffaello, Deliverance of Saint Peter
He was also incredibly skilful at portraits, as is seen in the Papa Giulio II portrait (Pope Julius II), with a very modern trait that reveals the psychology and the humanity of the Pope. In 1514 he also painted the beautiful altar piece Estasi di Santa Cecilia. When Giulio II died, the new Pope Leone X confirmed Raffaello’s collaboration and assigned him more commissions.
Raffaello, portrait of Pope julius II
At thirty years old, Raffaello owned the most prosperous workshop in Rome. Now that his fame was so acknowledged, the commissions overwhelmed his workshop and he delegated to his collaborators many paintings. The waiting times for a painting done in his workshop were in terms of years, if not decades. Raffaello in the meantime also contributed to the architecture of the Basilica di San Pietro. In 1516 the Cardinal Giulio de Medici – from the De Medici; the reigning family of Florence – commissioned an altar piece from him that he began but never unfinished (Giulio Romano completed it after Raffaello’s death), Trasfigurazione di Cristo (Transfiguration of Christ).
Raffaello, Transfiguration of Christ
Raffaello died at 37, in 1520, in Rome after a high fever (brought on ‘excessive love-making’) that lasted 15 days. In the room where he lay dying hung the Trasfigurazione, which sadly became his last work.
Written by: Elisa della Barba