During a time when Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci were the prime artists in Europe, a young man by the name of Raffaello Sanzio was starting to attract major attention with his artworks. The Italian high Renaissance was marked by paintings expressing human grandeur and very humanistic values. No one better portrayed the Italian high Renaissance then Raphael Sanzio, with his paintings clarity and ease of composition, Raphael was easily one of the greatest painters of this period.
Born in an artistically influenced town in Italy called Urbino, Raffaello Sanzio was first taught by his father, Giovanni Santi, how to compose works of art at a very early age. At the age of fourteen, Raphaels father realized his sons potential and sent him to a very talented teacher by the name of Pietro Perugino. Pietro Perugino lived from 1478 to 1520, and had a strong influence on Raphaels early artworks. Perugino was a Umbrian painter who loved to incorporate beautiful landscapes into his paintings.
Raphaels early works resembled Peruginos so much that paintings such as the Crucifixion with the Virgin, Saint John, Saint Jerome, and Saint Mary Magdalene were thought to be Raphaels until the church of San Gimingniano proved that they were in fact Peruginos. “Raphael was only 14. It is undoubtedly a Perugino calmly emotional, and pious rather than passionate. Unlike the other great painters of this time, such as Michelangelo and Da Vinci, Raphael was born with a great understanding of art and required little instruction if any.
Because of Raphaels great understanding of the arts, he quickly surpassed his teacher and ventured out on his own to the great city of Florence in 1504. At the same time Raphael arrived in Florence, the other great painters of time, Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci were the popular painters of the city. Because of the competitive environment of Florence, Raphael adopted many new painting techniques such as shading, anatomy, and frozen action. Both Michelangelo and Da Vincis styles influenced Raphael while he was in Florence.
Raphaels energetic paintings with softness and balance such as the “Small Cauper Madonna”, were influenced directly from Michelangelo. While Raphael was in Florence, Duke Guidobaldo employed him to paint a painting for King Henry VII of England. In the painting “Saint George and the Dragon”, Raphael portrays Saint George as a brave warrior fighting against a dragon right outside its lair. In contrast to the action of the painting, the background is peaceful and serene. In the story of Saint George, after the dragon is slain, the town all converts to Christianity, symbolizing the triumph of Christianity over all.
Raphael stayed in Florence until he decided to go to Rome where he could branch out and away from his two competitors. Once in Rome, Pope Julius II immediately commissioned Raphael because of his uncanny gift for painting sacred and secular paintings. Julius II had Raphael paint the rooms of the Vatican apartment, which brought life to the otherwise dull walls of the stanze. When Raphael arrived at the Vatican palace, Michelangelo was busy painting the Sistine Chapel ceiling. Raphael started the stanze walls around 1508 and didnt finish until 1511.
Raphael had painted the walls to celebrate the four aspects of human accomplishment: theology, philosophy, arts, and law. To represent theology, was the “Disputation of the Sacrament”. To represent philosophy was the famous “School of Athens”, in which Raphael paints Michelangelo and himself in amongst the philosophers. To represent the arts was “Parnassus” and finally to represent law was “Cardinal Virtues”. When fused together, these four aspects marked the transition from the middle ages to modern times. (Taylor, 59)
After he finished the frescos in the Vatican Palace, Raphael went on to fresco the Stanza dEliodoro between the years 1511 and 1514. Again Raphael depicted four historical events that illustrated salvation by divine intervention with his unparalleled gift for painting Christian Paintings. Throughout Raphaels artistic career, he went back to paintings portraying the Madonna and child many times. “The Alba Madonna”, was one of Raphaels most famous Madonnas because it was so different from traditional Roman art.
The Madonnas of this time were usually shown sitting on a throne, but Raphael painted her in the middle of a field which I think added a realism without getting rid of her holy image. Raphael also painted the Alba Madonna in a classic symmetrical triangle, which was a popular painting technique of that time. Raphaels painted more then forty Madonnas before his death in 1520. After suffering in bed for fifteen days, Raphael Sanzio died on his birthday at the young age of 37. Raphael seemed to blend harmony and balance perfectly into his paintings.
Two of Raphaels most famous artworks, that I found to be the most astounding, seemed to symbolize his never ending quest to create the perfect masterpiece. In the painting “The School of Athens”, Raphael immortalizes all of the great philosophers for all of time by capturing them in the height of the Italian Renaissance. Also in Raphaels “The Deliverance of Saint Peter from Prison”, the angel of the Lord seems to strike fear into the hearts of the soldiers that are guarding Saint Peters cell. Raphael captures the heavenly light from the divine being in such a way that one can almost see the action taking place.
If one analyzes Raphaels works, there are reasons for the harmony and realistic perspective. Raphael looked back to ancient Roman architecture when painting buildings, the subjects always came from antiquity, such as Plato and Socrates. The bodies of Raphaels figures were muscular and idealized and full of motion and gestures, further adding to the realism. In the short thirty-seven years of his life, Raphael summarized and epitomized the entire course of Italian humanism. Even though Raphael did not live as long as Leonardo or Michelangelo, he will always be ranked along with them as one of the greatest artists of all time.