Raphael is one of three master painters during the High Renaissance, alongside Leonardo and Michelangelo. Born Rafaello Sanzio, he left a large body of work, the most important of which being the frescoes found in the Vatican Palace. Aside from being considered the most celebrated artist in the 18th and 19th century, here are the following facts:
1. Raphael learned how to paint from his father.
- His father ran a painting workshop and was the court painter for the Duke of Urbino, a center for culture around the time of Raphael’s birth.
- Raphael was orphaned at 11 years-old and he took over his father’s workshop. By 19 years-old, he was considered a master painter and was in high demand for commissioned works.
2. He was praised for his pleasant personality.
- At Urbino, Raphael grew up amongst the aristocracy, and learned their ways and courtly manners. This made him popular with clients and the public alike, earning him the nickname “Prince of Painters”.
- It is this same amiable disposition that drew people to his workshop, earning him 50 pupils and assistants. They helped him finish his projects, so he can focus on others.
3. He was mainly influenced by Leonardo in developing his style.
- He incorporated Leonardo’s use of dynamic movement, as well as the pyramid composition, into his paintings.
- Raphael also used techniques introduced by Leonardo, such as sfumato (fine shading which produced a seamless transition between tones and colors) and chiaroscuro (powerful contrast between light and dark areas).
4. He had a rivalry with Michelangelo.
- The two artists were constantly compared and competed for commissions. Raphael was favored between them and received the best projects due to his character and great charm.
- Despite this, he secretly viewed Michelangelo’s frescoes in the Sistine Chapel and paid homage to his rival by painting him in “School of Athens”.
5. He was in charge of all the Pope’s artistic projects in Rome.
- Aside from painting, he was involved in decoration, architecture, and antiques. He was appointed commissioner of antiquities in Rome and tasked with preserving them.
- Raphael was also briefly the leading architect in the city, designing palaces, mansions and churches, including St. Peter’s Basilica.
6. He was never married, but had many lovers.
- Raphael’s most well-known lover was Margherita Luti. She was called “La Fornarina” (The Baker’s Daughter) and became the model for two of his portraits.
- It is said that his early death was caused by a fever after a night of excessive sex with Margherita. A historian supposes Raphael did not tell physicians the cause of his illness and was given the wrong medicine which lead to his death.
Raphael may have passed away at an early age, but his talent and charm have enabled him to rise above his contemporaries and remain immensely recognizable today. His various and numerous contributions have made him one of the most outstanding figures, not only in art but also in history.
What do you think of Raphael’s technique? Who is your favorite Renaissance artist? Let me know in the comments section!