Raphael Sanzio (1483-1520) – High Renaissance Painter and Architect

Italian painter and architect, Raffaelo Sanzio, better known as Raphael was born on April 6, 1483 in Urbino. The youngest of the trilogy of ‘High Renaissance,’ consisting of the legendary Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, he was one of the finest artists of his times. Packed with influential social circle and tremendous artistry, Sanzio had a powerful stint as a painter. At a tender age of eight years, Raphael lost his mother, Magia di Battista Ciarla. His father, Giovanni Santi, a court painter by profession, was his first teacher and was instrumental in introducing Raphael to the world of arts. It is believed that after Santi’s death in the year 1494, eleven-year-old Sanzio was left under the guardianship of his stepmother.

The artist was very keen on honing his art skills and in 1499, he moved to Perugia to learn from the renowned artist, Perugino. Raphael received his first commission during his training itself, in 1500. He painted “Baronci (1501),” an altarpiece for the church of Saint Nicholas of Tolentino, in Città di Castello. Upon the completion of his four years of learning in 1501, the artist was referred to as “master.” Sanzio’s high reputation helped him bag the task of painting the “Coronation of the Virgin (1502-03),” for the Oddi Chapel in the Church of San Francesco, in 1503. Inspired by Perugino’s ‘Giving of the Keys to St Peter,’ he painted, “The Marriage of the Virgin (1504).” Raphael’s painting style was indistinguishably parallel to that of Perugino. Both even employed the similar techniques, such as oil varnish medium, shadows, thin, and deep hued garments, to mention some.

In 1504, Raphael moved to Florence and met three of the greatest artists of all time, – Leonardo Da Vinci, who was mesmerizing the public with his ‘Mona Lisa;’ Fra Bartolommeo, in the course of exhibiting his ‘The Last Judgment;’ and Michelangelo, completing his first series of cartoons, ‘Bathing Soldiers.’ Raphael competed with these maestros through his ornate ‘Florentine Art,’ reflecting the battle themes with nude men fighting, such as “Battle of the Lapiths” and “The Centaurs Sketch.” Right from ‘contrapposto’ to ‘Sfumato,’ he applied all the prevailing artistic techniques, resulting in dynamic, complex, yet a subtle portrayal of images. During this time, his style of painting witnessed a sea change from the rigid ‘Umbrian’ Style to a more figurative and relaxed form of painting, best reflected in his various Madonna like “Madonna del Granduca (1505),” “Madonna of the Goldfinch (1505-06),” and “Madonna del Baldacchino.” The artist’s most celebrated composition from the Florence days is the “Deposition (Entombment) of Christ (1508).”

In 1508, Raphael moved to Vatican, Rome when Pope Julius II called upon him to paint frescoes on the walls of the Vatican Place. In 1511, he painted “The Parnassus,” his first most famous “Stanza della Segnatura (Raphael Rooms).” This series was a masterpiece of ‘Roman Art.’ In 1514, after the death of Pope Julius II, Raphael was appointed as the Chief Architect of Saint Peter’s Basilica, and the Director of all the excavations of antiquities in Rome, while the work on the frescoes was still in progress. Due to his increased commitments, he could personally paint only a part of the third room, but supervised and designed the remaining ones.

Since 1508, the artist stayed in Vatican for the rest of his life. Raphael chose not to marry ever, despite being engaged to Maria Bibbiena in 1514. He passed away untimely in 1520, on his 37th birthday, which fell on the auspicious day of Good Friday. He left behind the legacy of his masterpieces, which included, in addition to numerous cartoons & designs, printmaking, drawings, a series of easel paintings, including a “portrait of Julius II (1512)” and the famous “Sistine Madonna (1513-14).”