Quick Overview of High Renaissance Painter Raphael (Raffaello Sanzio)

Image © Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Dresden; Used with permission
Raphael (Raffaelo Sanzio or Santi) (Italian, 1483-1520) Sistine Madonna, 1513-14 Oil on canvas 265 x 196 cm. © Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Dresden

Movement, Style, School or Period:

Italian High Renaissance, Umbrian School

Date and Place of Birth:

April 6 (Good Friday), 1483, Urbino, Italy


Painter Raphael of the High Renaissance was born Raffaello Sanzio on April 6, 1483, in Urbino, Italy. It was Good Friday, the day that Christians commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus. When he entered the world, Urbino distinguished itself as a place where the arts thrived.

Residents, such as Raphael’s very own father, Giovanni Santi, were encouraged to develop as artists. Santi painted for the Duke of Urbino, Federigo da Montefeltro, no doubt influencing Raphael to pursue art as a profession as well.

His father died when Raphael was just 11 years old, but before his death, Santi managed to teach Raphael the basics of painting. The boy would go on to take over his father’s workshop, revealing himself to be a natural painter. Rich, outgoing and said to be very handsome, he soon earned a reputation for being the best painter in town and as a teen was commissioned to paint the Church of San Nicola in nearby Castello, Italy.

In 1500, the teen Raphael served as apprentice to Pietro Vannunci, or Perugino. The four-year apprenticeship allowed him to hone his craft and develop his own style of painting. During this time, religion emerged as a focal point in Raphael’s works, such as “Mond Crucifixion” (circa 1502) and “The Three Graces (circa 1503).” His work is characterized by perfect use of color, balance of composition, and sweetness in the subjects of his paintings.

Raphael parted ways with Perugino to travel to Florence, which exposed him to the works of Fra Bartolommeo, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and Masaccio. Influenced by this group of Italian painters, Raphael painted a series of “Madonnas” as well as his works “La Belle jardine” and “Entombment.”

By 1508, Raphael was painting in the Vatican, with Pope Julius II as his patron.

He completed two fresco cycles at the Vatican. At his personal studio, Raphael completed his famous works,  “Madonna of the Chair” and “Sistine Madonna.”

In 1514, Raphael branched out into architecture, working for the pope but also on palaces. He continued to paint at this time as well, beginning his largest work on canvas, “The Transfiguration,” in 1517.  While working on this piece, Raphael, just 37, fell ill and died on April 6, 1520. It was his birthday. He was buried at the Pantheon in Rome with the incomplete “Transfiguration” positioned on his coffin stand, according to Biography.com. His early death brought about what came to be acknowledged as the end of the Italian Renaissance. He, along with Leonardo and Michelangelo, is considered one of the three Great Names of the High Renaissance. Although his life had been cut short, Raphael’s works, which leaned towards Mannerism as he aged, ushered in Italy’s Baroque period.

Important Works:

  • Madonna of the Meadows, 1505
  • The School of Athens, 1511
  • The Sistine Madonna, 1513-14
  • Galatea, ca. 1513
  • Pope Leo X with Cardinals, ca. 1517

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Raphael. (2015). The Biography.com website.

Retrieved 04:21, Jun 25, 2015, from http://www.biography.com/people/raphael-41051.