The Italian Almanac


More about Raphael
The School of Athens


Raffaello Sanzio (1483 - 1520)

Biography begins with a quote from the Italin painter Perugino when he saw the work of the young Raphael Santi, "Let him be my pupil; he will soon become my master". He spoke the truth, for Raphael became the master painter of his time and even today is the most generally praised, and certainly the most beloved, of all the painters of the world.

"He is an innocent angel", Pope Julius II exclaimed, as beautiful Raphael, his chestnut locks falling upon his shoulders, knelt before him. This was when Raphael, 25 years of age, was beginning the most important work of his life , the execution of those numerous wall paintings which still decorate the halls and chambers of the Vatican, or palace of the Pope, in Rome.

But though princes considered themselves favored if this young artist even designed a picture for them, and though his student and assistants bowed before his as their sovereign, Raphael always thought of himself as a pupil, learning from the works of other skilled artists how to make his own art productions more perfect.

In his boyhood days in the studio of his father in Urbino, while he was with Perugino, during the wonderful days in Florence with Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo, in Rome at the height of his powers - always he found some point which he could use. In part it was this purity and finess of his spirit that have made his work immortal.

So whether he painted an altar-piece for a church, a great fresco of Bible history or classical Mythology, or made a pattern cartoon for a tapestry, the picture was sure to be beautiful. How completely he succeeded in this is shown, for example, in his picture entitled "The School of Athens", which is only one of four great wall paintings with which he beautified a single one of the Pope's rooms in the Vatican.

Raphael died at the early age of 37, but he left an amazing amount of work. His last days were devouted to his great picture of the "Transfiguration" He finished the upper part of the picture, but as he sketched the lower half a deadly fever stayed the active hand and ended the work of the master.

No artist has ever shown such surpassing skill in picturing the ideal, the spiritual, the beautiful, as Raphael of Urbino.