Italian Renaissance Artist

Early Life

Born Raffaelo Sazio (better known as simply Raphael) was born April 6, 1943 in Urbino Italy. Urbino was known as a cultural center that greatly encouraged the arts during the Renaissance. Although Raphael would be influenced by major artists in Florence and Rome, Urbino constituted the basis for most of his learning. Growing up, Raphael was taught the fundamentals of painting by his father, Giovanni Santi, a decorator and painter. (At right). Raphael stayed in his hometown of Urbino until he was 17 years old, when Giovanni passed away.

Becoming an Artist

Once Giovanni could no longer mentor the young artist, Timoteo Viti trained him and influenced many of his works. Viti was an artist, a poet and a musician in Urbino. He taught Raphael many techniques until he left for Florence (at age 21) to be an apprentice for Perugino. Perugino developed some of the qualities that found "classic expression" in the High Renaissance. Raphael took after his style, many of his works reflect aspects of Perugino's. Additionally in Florence, Raphael was able to collaborate with Leonadro da Vinci, studying his works such as the Mona Lisa. His ‘Young Woman on a Balcony’, pen and ink sketch, c. 1504. resembles the Mona Lisa.


After arriving in Florence, Raphael began to travel more and discover new cultures. The young artist was publicly engaged to Maria Bibbiena, the niece of a powerful cardinal. Yet, scholars believed him to have had a mistress (whom he truly loved) by the name of Margherita Lui, a daughter of a baker. Raphael died unexpectedly and was unable to marry and have children.

Art and Patrons

Years after leaving Perugino, Raphael developed more of his own art style, more influenced by Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci. In his formative years, Raphael's style was very much like his master's, Pietro Perugino, with soft figures and rich colors. Later, he borrowed much from the other two. From Michelangelo he took twisted and dynamic figures, from Leonardo he took many inovations of composition, such as arranging things to form triangle and circles

Through the influence of a distant relative, Raphael was summoned to Rome by Pope Julius II in 1508. Then, he was comissioned to decorate several suites of rooms in the Vatican. Pope Julius was the one to support the famous "School of Athens." Also, Pope Leo X also paid Raphael to paint many pieces for his own enjoyment.

Renaissance "Isms"

Raphael's works portrayed many ideals of the Renaissance. His La fornarina portrait (circa 1518) was an example of Secularism, very revealing and representing the natural beauty of human beings. Raphael's School of Athens showed Classicism, painting Greek and Roman Philosophers.

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The School of Athens

The School of Athens, one of the most famous frescoes by Raphael was created around 1509 and was finished around 1514. It is somewhat of an allegory of secular knowledge showing Greek philosophers in an architectural setting. This work is displayed in the same place where the artist originally painted it- on a wall in a room in the Vatican, located in Rome. This piece was comissioned by Pope Julius II, in order to decorate a suite. The artwork had so many important Greek and Roman philosophers in it. Many different aspects of the Renaissance were shown such as music and math (Pythagoras-Pythagorean Theorem). Raphael also included himself in the painting. Its beauty and its thematic unity were universally accepted.

This painting strongly represents Classicism and Individualism, through its portrayal of knowledge and power. The most obvious is its portrayal of classicism is through the painting’s arches and classic philosophers. Plato and Aristotle are the focuses of the painting because of their central position.

I find this piece interesting because there is great attention to detail and it is symbolic in many ways. You can find this picture and read more about it at http://keepingthefaitharthistory.blogspot.com/2011/05/raphaels-school-of-athens.html.

Works Cited

ROWLAND, INGRID. "Raphael." Europe, 1450 to 1789: Encyclopedia of the Early Modern World. Ed. Jonathan Dewald. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 2004. Biography in Context. Web. 14 Nov. 2013.