1483 - 1520

"I have tried to discover the very forms of ancient building, even if this should be the flight of Icarus…I have made use of a certain Idea which comes to me mentally. I do not know if this may have in itself any excellence of art, but I have striven to find it "

- Raphael, letter to Baldassare Castiglione, 1514

The leading Renaissance painter, Raphael reinterpreted the art of his fifteenth-century teachers through his study of contemporary art (including that of Michelangelo, Leonardo and Fra Bartolommeo), and of the art of classical Rome. Raphael’s graceful, harmonious paintings and frescoes were admired (and copied by art students) for centuries.

Raphael Sanzio (Raffaello Santi) probably studied art initially with his father, Giovanni Santi. A poet and painter to the Montefeltro court at Urbino (in Umbria, Italy), Giovanni died when his son was only 11. Thereafter Raphael trained with other masters, working from 1499 as pupil and assistant to Umbria's leading artist, Pietro Perugino. Raphael's style matured under the influence of contemporary Florentine art, and through exploring the art of ancient Rome. He increasingly used oils rather than tempera, influenced by Flemish oil paintings. After Raphael's premature death, his influence was disseminated through prints by his workshop assistants (including Giulio Romano and Gianfrancesco Penni). Raphael's paintings, frescoes and tapestry designs were long considered the foundation of European art training. They remain among the best-loved artworks of the Renaissance.

About 1504 he moved to Florence, then a leading artistic centre, where he encountered the innovative art of Leonardo and Michelangelo. Raphael produced portraits and many paintings of the Virgin and Child (La Belle Jardinière (1507; Paris, Louvre). In 1508-09, Pope Julius II summoned Raphael to Rome, placing him in charge of decorating papal apartments in the Vatican Palace. Raphael’s frescoes for the Stanza della Segnatura (The School of Athens), Stanza d’Eliodoro and Stanza dell’Incendio are among the most admired and influential artworks in history, while reflecting the influence of Michelangelo, who was working at the same time in the Sistine Chapel. From the 1510s, Raphael maintained a large workshop to cope with his many commissions: decorative schemes for the logge (roofed terraces) of the Vatican and Villa Farnesina; the Acts of the Apostles tapestries; and Rome’s Chigi chapels. He created altarpieces (Sistine Madonna, 1513-14; Dresden, Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister), engravings and portraits (Baldassare Castiglione, Paris, Louvre). Rome’s leading artist, he was appointed Rome’s first superintendent of archaeological excavations but died unexpectedly at age 37. Famous throughout Europe, he was buried in the Pantheon.


1514   Appointed Architect of St. Peter's Basilica by Pope Leo X

© Scala / Art Resource, NY

Birth name



Born in Urbino, Italy, 28 March 1483


Died in Rome, Italy, 06 April 1520




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