Biography of Raphael – from Birth to Death
On April 8, 1483, Raphael was born. He would go on to ranked among the greatest artists to ever live. He became one of the great master artist of the Renaissance period. He was very active and prolific, despite him dying when he was thirty-seven, and many of his works of art remain around today. His works continue to be viewed highly, even today for their great clarity and striking elements.
Raphael’s father, Giovanni, was the court painter for the Duke and Duchess of Urbino, allowing him to quickly spot his son’s talent and could see that there could be a bright future ahead for his only child. Giovanni desired for his son to reach his full potential. He did so by teaching the basics of painting and went out of his way to help Raphael learn. When Giovanni saw that there was little more for him teach Raphael, Giovanni went to speak with a famous artist, Pietro Perugino, with the hopes that the artist would teach his boy more knowledge. Giovanni taught Raphael in his workshop until his death when Raphael was eleven.
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Raphael’s potential art career could have died with his father, but he was able to become a student under Perugino. Perugino was able to help teach Raphael and help him acquire professional knowledge. After some time under Perugino, Raphael was viewed as a highly talented young artist. A notable moment in Raphael’s development was when he was paid to paint a version of The Marriage of the Virgin, a scene that Perugino had painted before. Raphael took inspiration from Perugino’s, except Raphael was able to add his own unique style to the scene making it more realist. He looked at Perugino’s and was able to make the next step beyond his master’s painting. Many people say that this was the moment that he was able to surpass Perugino and end of his apprenticeship under Perugino. Here is a quote from a work written by Anna Drummond that shows why some view this moment as such a significant step in Raphael passing Perugino, “Critics have used the painting to argue the superiority of Raphael’s technical and artistic skill over that of Perugino.”
It was time for Raphael to break free and go seek the fame and glory that he sought. The next step was for him to challenge the other greatest masters of his day, so there was only one place for him to travel to Florence, Italy. Raphael knew that he could learn from Michelangelo and through practice could one day become his rival. Just like what during his time with Perugino, Raphael absorbed some of the influence of the Florence style while also keeping his own uniqueness in his works. From about 1504, Raphael became familiar with the works of Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. Raphael began to give his human figures more dynamic movements after seeing the works of da Vinci. Michelangelo after seeing the similarities between his works and Raphael’s started to dislike Raphael. Here is an example of how Michelangelo felt about other artists ripping off his art works:
But he was always worried about other artists stealing from him, and he railed against the painter best known for his remarkable ability to synthesize what he took from others: Raphael. In a letter written in 1541, more than two decades after Raphael’s death at age thirty-seven, the sixty-six-year-old Michelangelo commented darkly, “Everything Raphael knew about art, he got from me.” (Pon 184)
By the year of 1508, Raphael had moved to Rome. He was invited by the Pope Julius II to commission some art in the Vatican, with Julius was remodeling. There were also many other artists who were working on different rooms in the Vatican, as the Pope was determined to get rid of all of the art that the pervious Pope had commissioned. Raphael was given rooms to work on, his first room known as the Stanza della Segnatura is among his highest regarded creations. Featured in there are his The School of Athens, The Parnassus, and The Triumph of Galatea. After seeing the results, Raphael was then given additional rooms to work with, pushing out other artists who were working those rooms. One of the artists displayed was Raphael’s first teacher Perugino. He completed the first two rooms primarily himself and passed the work on the other rooms to his workshop of students who were to use his designs.
On April 6, 1520, on Raphael’s 37th birthday he died. The cause of his death remains unknown, but there are several possibilities that have been raised by historians. Whatever the cause, he suffered in an acute illness for fifteen days. Which gave him enough time for him to confess his sins and put his affairs in order. His funeral was an extremely large state mourning. From the time that he spent learning from his father, Raphael absorbed as much information he could possible learn and he had seized every opportunity he had to further his career and legacy. Raphael transformed the ideas and the styles of others artist into his own. He took Leonardo da Vinci’s and Michelangelo’s themes, ideas, and work methods and made them into his own. Raphael only lived to be thirty-seven years old which makes his legacy that much more impressive when you look at the magnificent artworks that he was able to produce in his short life. Despite the fact that he died so young, he is still ranked as an equal to Leonardo and Michelangelo.