Raphael was born at Urbino town, Italy on April 6th, 1438. His real name was Raffaello Sanzio son of Giovanni Santi, the farther and Magia Ciarla, the mother. Raphael grew to become a reputable architect and a painter during the famous era of European Renaissance in art (Evans 7). Renaissance is the historic period in European culture that marked the emergence of the scientific revolution. Renaissance in painting emerged in Italy around 1400 AC alongside with other cultures and traditions. By the time Raphael died in 1520, he was admitted as an exceptional master in painting and architecture. According to Garrard, Raphael’s painting career can be divided into the following three phases: the child-age paintings, the Florentine paintings, and the Rome paintings (112).
The Child-Age Paintings
Raphael’s painting career started when he was a young boy. Researchers avow that Raphael’s farther had a great influence on his early painting career. Raphael’s father was a painter at Duke’s Court in Urbino until his death. Santi was highly educated on the art of letters and possessed the best fashionable artistic skill of the time (Garrard 37). It is reported that Santi was among the best painters in Urbino province. It is believed that Urbino province has the best courts painting in Italy. Giovanni worked closely with the most reputable expert painters like Pietro Perugino and Mantegna. Consequently, Raphael’s father was highly professional in painting, and thus he inspired his son to begin his painting career (Szakolczai 145).
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Raphael occasionally helped his farther in painting and this gave rise to his passion about painting. Researchers assert that working alongside with his farther in such early age made Raphael acquire professional skills and ethics in painting. Raphael worked with his father until his death in 1894, four years after death of his mother in 1891. Fortunately, before Santi died, he had enrolled Raphael for an apprenticeship program in the Pietro Perugino’s workshop for painting studies. Perugino was one of the most reputable and experienced masters in painting in the entire Urbino (Garrard 134).
After the death of his father, the orphaned Raphael lived with Bartolomeo, his uncle who was a priest. Raphael continued to develop his painting talent while still attending the apprenticeship program from his uncle’s house. Raphael proved his painting expertise when he painted a magnificent self-portrait at the age of 16. Motivated by the comments of fellow painters, Raphael decided to venture in the painting industry to earn for a living (Szakolczai 148).
Research affirms that by 1500, at the age of 17 Raphael was a painting master. Experts argue that Raphael was the youngest painting master in history of Urbino. Researchers report that by 1501, one could not differentiate Raphael’s painting from those of Perugino. Research further states that both Raphael and his teacher used thick painting with magnificent varnish finishing. By 1502, painting experts argued that Raphael was experienced enough in both painting and architecture, thus he could handle any painting contract (Garrard 138).
It should be noted that Perugino’s workshop was highly marketable in Perugia. Therefore, the workshop often won many painting contracts in Urbino. From the reputation of working in Perugino’s workshop, Raphael started wining painting contracts in Castello and its environs. It is during this time Raphael painted Baronci Alterpiece, the first outstanding professional painting in 1502. Baronci Alterpiece was the famous painting in St. Nicholas church, Tolentino. Later Perugino sent Pinturicchio, his assistant and Raphael to do more painting work in Sienna Cathedral and Piccolomini Library. The complexity, beauty, and quality of Raphael’s paintings by this time marked the beginning of Raphael’s painting profession. During this time, the residents of Umbrian courts and towns were wealthy people, and hence they were potential customers of Raphael’s painting. Consequently, Raphael moved to Florence to find profitable painting job in the city (Szakolczai 151).
The Florentine Paintings
Raphael Florentine career was the four-year period. He stayed in Florence from 1504-1508. Raphael was inspired by the paintings of Michelangelo and Leonardo. Research asserts that both painters were highly qualified and real experts in human anatomy painting. Raphael liked drawing naked men fighting. Interestingly, Raphael’s drawings were becoming more exceptional than those of Michelangelo and Leonardo (Szakolczai 153).
Raphael’s painting experience greatly improved while in Florence. It was at this time he painted Ansidei Madonna and the Baglioni paintings for different Perugi customers. Moreover, he secured Madonna Baldacchino painting in Santo Church in Florence. The most magnificent last painting created in Florence is the famous Saint Catherine found in the National Museum of London today. In 1508, Raphael moved to Rome to look for better painting commissions in the papal regime (Garrard 145).
The Rome Paintings
Raphael settled in Rome in 1508. At this time Renaissance painting in Rome was flourishing more than in any other place in Italy. For some time, Raphael struggled before securing sponsorship from Pope Julius II at the age of 25 years. Pope gave him contract of re-painting all the rooms in his residence. Following Raphael’s outstanding painting in the private apartments, Pope commissioned him more painting work in the Vatican Stanza commonly known as Raphael Rooms. Stanza are special rooms found on the topmost floor of the Vatican Palace (Szakolczai 163). For decades, this contract was bestowed to the best painters in Italy like Perugio, Piero Dellaad, and Signorelli. Gradually, Raphael was gaining recognition in the painting industry across Italy. In addition, Pope Julius II admired his work which led to allocating Raphael more contracts inside the Vatican Palace (Garrard 153).
Later on, Pope commissioned Raphael to work on the Segnatura Stanza hosting the library. Research asserts that the Stanza archived some of the best artistic works like the School of Athens, the Sacrament Disputation, and the Parnassus. After sometime, Pope Julius II commissioned Raphael to paint the d’Eliodoro located in Stanza 2. In this Stanza, Raphael painted famous Heliodorus Expulsion, the St Peter’s Release, the Repulse of Attila, and the Bolsena Mass. Such a contract in Stanza proved that Raphael was extremely exceptional painter (Evans 46).
Raphael’s success was not without rivalry. While working in the second Stanza, Michelangelo, thefamous painter was painting the ceiling in Sistine Chapel. Michelangelo became jealous of Raphael’s increasing reputation in the entire Italy especially in the Vatican Palace. As a result, fierce rivalry developed between the two professionals. Researchers state that, at one time, Michelangelo became suspicious that Raphael was planning to poison him. Due to this contempt, Raphael included Michelangelo’s portrait in his School of Athens painting (Szakolczai 155).
Researchers assert that Raphael was so excellent in painting that his Palace contracts surpassed Pope’s regimes. In 1513, Pope Julius II died when Raphael was still working on the d’Eliodoro Stanza. On March 11th, Pope Leo X, Giovanni de Medici, replaced Pope Julius II. Contrary to the expectation of many people including Michelangelo that Raphael’s career would diminish under the new administration, researchers state that he became even more successful.
New Pope embraced Raphael’s work as outstanding. Research asserts that Raphael’s contracts under new Pope were even more appealing and profitable (Szakolczai 159).
Before long, Raphael established a comprehensive painting workshop. The workshop had an average of 50 associates and students. Raphael retired from active work and started to specialize in design and management. In most cases, Raphael directed his assistants to execute various contracts that his workshop secured. Research asserts that Fire in the Borgo painting was the last job in which Raphael was actively involved. According to Evans, all other paintings including the Stanza dell Incendio were accomplished by his workshop management (57).
Raphael’s professionalism and ethics acquired from the Umbria Court won the papal regime too. Bramante greatly admired Raphael’s architectural and painting expertise. Consequently, Bramante recommended Raphael for reconstruction of St. Peter’s building. Therefore, on April 1st, 1514, Pope Leo X contracted Raphael as the chief architect for the reconstruction of St. Peter’s Complex. Furthermore, Raphael designed magnificent cartoons tapestries in the Sistine Chapel that symbolized St. Peter’s and St. Paul’s life. The cartoons were designed for hanging on the chapel walls (Evans 55). This is one of the few commissions that Raphael did himself since he established his workshop. The tapestries are said to be completed in the year 1519 when seven of them were hanged on the wall of Chapel. Later in 1517, Raphael won Vatican Loggias decoration commission. Researchers argue that the Loggias decoration was one of the state-of-the art works in Raphael’s career. The Transfiguration was the last painting of Raphael (Garrard 165).
Research attributes Raphael’s death to his sexual lifestyle. Most writers agree that Raphael’s social circle was full of mistresses. Research further affirms that though Raphael was not married, he was in a sexual relationship with many lovers throughout his career in the Papal court (Garrard 171). Vasari, Raphael’s close friend, related Raphael’s sudden death to the sexual encounter he had with Margherita, one of his mistresses. Vasari argued that after making love for long hours, Raphael contracted certain disease that caused his death. Raphael died on April 6th, 1520 and was buried the following day at Pantheon (Evans 125).
Raphael as the Quintessential Renaissance Artist
Various contradicting episodes that Raphael surpassed in his painting and architectural career are sufficient to quantify him as the quintessential Renaissance artist. For instance, when Raphael’s father died, he continued to pursue his painting passion relentlessly without discouragement. The outstanding quick expertise Raphael demonstrated while in an apprenticeship program in Pietro Perugino’s workshop was exceptional. Furthermore, following reports that by 1502, one could not differentiate Perugino’s and Raphael’s paintings, is a proof that he was a highly talented painter (Evans 129).
The historical record of becoming a master at the age of 17 years further elaborates Raphael’s artistic supremacy. Research further provided rich paintings and altarpieces in Madonna besides his Vatican decoration efforts (Szakolczai 157). Continued implementation of his work after his death is another proof that he was the quintessential Renaissance artist. For instance, he designed Gatalea mythological framework of the Tiber Villa that belonged to Agostino Chigi. Chigi was a reputable banker who owned a private church in Santa Maria, Rome. This plan was later implemented after his demise by Lorenzo Bernini for over a century (Garrard 165).
In conclusion, Raphael was a successful quintessential Renaissance artist. The expertise, ethics and professionalism he showed by the time he died was incomparable. His success in commissioning Vatican Palace painting and architectural design was the climax of his professionalism. It is an outstanding record to beat his painting models like Michelangelo, who only secured ceiling painting in one Vatican painting contract. Setting up one of the most successful workshop with fifty students and associates in such a young age was the success beyond compare. In summary, Raphael was a typical quintessential Renaissance artist.