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Raphael was an Italian painter who most completely typifies the classical art of the High Renaissance in its ordered equilibrium, idealized naturalness, and standardized types of characters. His art exemplifies the political and philosophical striving of the papacy under Julius II and especially Leo X for a glory to match that of ancient Rome.

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Madonna with Goldfinch
Madonna with the Goldfinch
Raphael, was born Raffaello Santi at Urbino on April 6, 1483 and died in Rome on his 37th birthday, 1520. He received his early training in art from his father, Giovanni Santi. After his father's death in 1494, he studied with Evangelista di Meleto and Temoteo Viti, until his uncle, Simon Ciarla, took him to Perugia between 1499 and 1500. He became an apprentice to Perugino where he was employed with other assistants in painting the frescos of the Sala del Cambio. He was active in Florence from 1505 to 1508 and then went to Rome where he worked the rest of his life as a painter, architect, designer, and director of antiquities. He was the center of a group of artists and intellectuals at the papal court.

In Florence, Raphael studied the work of Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Fra Bartlolmmeo, learning their methods of representing the play of light and shade, anatomy, and dramatic action. He made the transition to a more animated informal manner in painting from the typical Umbrian school emphasis on perspective, and rigidly geometric composition. His is known most in Florence for his numerous intimate and poetic Madonnas: Madonna del Granduca, La Belle Jardiniere, the Goldfinch, and the Madonna del Baldaccino.

In Rome, Raphael was commissioned by Pope Julius II to execute frescoes in four small stanze, or rooms in the Vatican Pallace. In the ceiling of the first room, the Stanza della Segnatura (1509-1511), he expressed the personifications of Theology, Philosophy, Poetry, and Justice for each wall. The wall of Theology is the Dispura, representing a group discussing the mystery of the Trinity. The wall of Philosophy portrays an open architectural space in which Plato, Aristotle, and other ancient philosophers are engaged in disclosure. On the wall of Poetry , the Greek god Apollo is surrounded by the Muses and the great poets which is described as the celebrated Parnassus. Raphael, with the help of his assistants, painted the second Vatican Chamber with scenes representing the triumph of the Roman Catholic church over its enemies.

School of Athens
The School of Athens
The responsibilities of Raphael's work increased after the death of Pope Julius II in 1513 and the accession of Leo X. Leo made him inspector of all marbles dug up in Rome, commissioned him to make plans and elevations of these ancient edifices, and appointed him to succeed Baramante as head architect at St. Peter's Basilica in 1514. He was not able to complete the paintings in the third room of the Vatican Palace, the Stanza del Incendio, and only suggested designs for the fourth chamber, the Sala Constantina due to his many responsibilities. He did design ten tapestries illustrating the acts of Christ's apostles for the Sistine Chapel and also devised the architecture and decorations of the Chigi Chapel in the Church of Santa Maria del Poplo and the decorations of the Villa Farnesina, which include the Triumph of Galatea.

Raphael was the youngest of the trio of great High Renaissance painters. With the influence of Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo, he expressed his artistic ideals of well-orded space in which human beauty and spatial harmony were given equal treatment. With the use of Classical forms and ideals in architecture he was able to create great works in the Vatican, St. Peter's, and other contemporary structures. Raphael's outstanding talent brought about the many accomplishments which became masterpieces of the High Renaissance.


Champlin, John D. Cyclopedia of Painters and Paintings. Vol. 4. New York: Empire State, 1927. 6-9.

Greten, Carol L., CGFA, Raphael (1483 - 1520), http://sunsite.unc.edu/cjackson/raphael/raphael_bio.htm

Larousse Dictionary of Painters. New York: Larousse, 1981. 340-43.

Myers, Bernard S. Encyclopedia of Painting: Painters and Painting of the World from Prehistoric Times to the Present Day. New York: Crown, 1955. 408-09.

Turner, Jane. The Dictionary of Art. Vol. 25. New York: Grove, 1996. 896-910.

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