Raffaello Sanzio was born on April 6, 1483, in Urbino, Italy. He began his artistic career in Urbino as an apprentice to his father, Giovanni Santi, who was a court painter. In 1499, at the age of 17, he moved to Florence to study the works of other Renaissance masters, including Leonardo and Michelangelo.
In 1504, Raphael returned to Urbino, where he established his own workshop and began to receive important commissions. In 1508, he was summoned to Rome by Pope Julius II to decorate the Vatican Palace with frescoes. This was a turning point in Raphael’s career, and he remained in Rome for the rest of his life.
While in Rome, Raphael created some of his most famous works, including “The School of Athens,” “The Sistine Madonna,” and the “Pope Julius II Portrait.” He was also an accomplished architect, and designed several buildings, including the Chigi Chapel in Santa Maria della Pace and the Vatican Loggias.
In his famous book “The Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects” published in 1550, Giorgio Vasari, an Italian writer, artist, and architect who lived during the same time as Raphael, wrote that Raphael’s paintings were characterized by their “grace, charm, and beauty.” He also praised Raphael’s mastery of composition, line, and color, and described him as a master of portraiture, who had the ability to capture the essence of his subjects.
Vasari also wrote about Raphael’s social skills, describing him as a charming and likable man who was loved and respected by his contemporaries. He also mentions Raphael’s love affairs, and his reputation as a ladies’ man, but praises him for his modest and unassuming nature.
Raphael’s premature death at the age of 37 was a great loss to the art world, but his legacy lives on through his works. He was a visionary artist, who combined technical mastery with a deep understanding of the human form and emotion. He was a true Renaissance man, who excelled in both painting and architecture and who is still considered one of the greatest artists of all time.
Why he’s on the list:
I started liking the Italian Renaissance at a very young age, when I found out that Splinter had named his Ninja Turtles after his four favorite Renaissance artists. And while Michelangelo was my favorite Ninja Turtle, Raphael was my favorite painter. =)
Raphael’s paintings are beautiful. But what I mainly love about them is the sprezzatura that emanates from them, a certain nonchalance or effortless grace in artistic expression. (More on that in a future portrait.)
Raphael had the ability to capture the essence of his subjects in his portraits. He was able to convey the emotions and personality of his subjects with a naturalness that was unique for his time.
He truly was one of the great masters of the Renaissance and as such, he deserves a spot on this list.