By Darla McCammon
Raphael would likely be considered one of the best painters of all time had he survived longer.
His work had already surpassed many of the other famous artists of history and was continuing to improve and impress when he passed away at the very young age of 37 in 1520. Raphael became an orphan at the age of 11 when both his parents died within three years of each other in 1491 and 1494. Two uncles, his mother’s brother and his father’s brother, took care of him for about six years until he left his hometown of Urbino and became a student in Perugia, Italy, under the master artist Pietro Perugino.
Raphael was fortunate to learn from this experience as he was taught and instructed by one of Italy’s foremost painters. Within a very short time, Raphael was receiving independent contracts and signed them as a master painter. Having learned much from Perugino, Raphael decided to move to Florence where he could see Leonardo and Michelangelo, and learn from their work. He became famous for his creations of multiple, amazing Madonnas. These, along with his portrait work, kept him financially solvent while he was in Florence.
Raphael was an entrepreneur as well as an artist. Two events secured him the reputation as the top artist in Rome. First, he was clever in realizing that the general public could not afford his large original work. He hired an engraver and had reproductions and prints made of some of his drawings. This produced a nice extra income and made his work even more popular than it already was.
Secondly, Julius II decided he wanted his papal apartments completely changed from the distasteful (to him) décor left behind by his disliked predecessor Alexander VI. Julius, in a mystery to some, but the delight of Perugino, chose Raphael to take charge of this entire project. Raphael was able to save large work of Perugino as he designed the changes. The second floor of this project had just begun when Julius II passed away. This did not affect Raphael, however, because the new pope Leo X, greatly appreciated Raphael’s work and soon he was appointed the Papal Architect.
Art critic Ludovico wrote of Raphael: “Michelangelo excels in one manner alone, that is in creating muscular nudes, skillfully foreshortened and in vigorous movement…and in Leonardo’s works, the discerning viewer could admire the intelligence and grandeur of his underlying idea…but Raphael painted figures of every sort, some delicate, some fearsome and some vigorous…Raphael had mastered all aspects of painting, including a whole variety of figures which perfectly expressed the character of those they represented.”
Raphael’s work continues to impress to this day. You might enjoy more of his talent by simply doing a search for “Raphael paintings” on the Internet.