While we may term other works paintings. Those of Raphael are living things; the flesh palpitates, the breath comes and goes, every organ lives, life pulses everywhere (Vasari, Web Museum 1) On April 6, 1483, in Urbino, Italy, a man of a new age came into the world, Raphael Sanzio. Starting in his most formable years, art and poetry came into his life by way of his father Giovanni, a court painter to the Duke of Urbino. Giovanni, the first actual master of Raphael, taught him about the arts and all of the components of painting.
For the first ten years of his life his father influenced his feelings on the arts. In 1494, he traveled to Perugia to study under Peitro Perugino. Just as his father influenced his early life, his study in Perugia shaped his adolescence and young adulthood even further. In Perugia, Raphael began to take a particular liking to the field of art. Perugino influenced the way that Raphael thought about art and also helped him form a style of his own. These years in the life of Raphael proved to be his most impressionable.
Perugino taught the basic laws of painting to the young Raphael and showed him what art really was. At this time in Raphael’s life his works mimicked those of Perugino, but still many say that his works breathed an independence of their own. Raphael, had a precious talent right from the beginning and was an innate absorber of influences (Web Museum 2). In many of Raphael’s early works of art he echoes the style of Perguino, like that in the painting St. George and the Dragon. The style of Raphael in his early twenties proved in many aspects to far exceed those of Perugino.
Raphael took a journey to Florence in 1504 to learn more about the happenings taking place in the fastest growing portion of Italy. While in Florence, he embraced new methods and techniques, adopted from those of Leonardo da Vinci. From da Vinci, Raphael learned how to balance and individualize his figures in every work that he would fabricate from that day forward. Raphal’s paintings now took on a much more vibrant and electric approach. Raphael took a special liking to Mary, the Virgin Mother of God, and Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
In many different paintings he depicted Mary holding the infant Jesus in her arms. The artist loved to manifest the love between the Virgin Mother and her most beloved Son and each rendition reflected a feeling of heroism, yet at the same time depicts a very tender feeling. Raphael displayed precision in design, skill in composition, taste, grace, an exquisite sense of decoration, a harmonious disposition of figures according to the rules of perspective… (Bernini, de Vecchi 10). For four years, Raphael continued his works on the Blessed Mother and the Infant Jesus and many others.
Over the course of these years, his style became much more developed and became his own. Four years after his sojourn to Florence in 1508, he traveled to Rome to answer a summons given by Pope Julius II. When he arrived in Rome, Julius II offered him employment. Raphael, with other distinguished sculptors, architects, and painters from all over Italy, decorated the city of Rome and especially the pope’s private residence. Pope Julius II wanted Rome to return to the beautiful masterpiece that it once was. While in Rome, Raphael painted many frescos located in the Stanza della Segnatura.
This room has an arched ceiling and each wall has a different painting on it. The architecture alone manifests the true heart of the High Renaissance. Each wall of the room has an arch support, and Raphael incorporated the arch into his works. The School of Athens covers one of the walls of the Stanza della Segnatura. The School of Athens exhibits ancient Greek philosophers and many scientists of the ancient times. In the center of the fresco stands Plato and Aristotle, two of the greatest minds of ancient times.
The painting depicts the philosophers and scientists practicing their science while all in the same vicinity. He raised his art in its ultimate features to the height of its beauty, restoring ancient mobility, and enriching it with all the graces and gifts which had rendered its glorious among the Greeks and Romans (Bellori, de Vecchi 10). The frescos and paintings in the Stanza della Segnatura proclaimed many similarities to those paintings of Michelangelo’s on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
However, Raphael’s pieces of art had much more clarified arrangement of figures and a more perfect balance to the entire fresco. Rome now became a beautified city like in ancient times. Pope Leo X, the successor of Julius II, also liked the art that Raphael created. During this time, he produced many religious paintings, tapestry designs, palace decorations, and portraits. Furthermore, to Raphael’s advantage, he had a very large workshop in which his masterpieces came to life.
The School of Athens and the three companion paintings, illustrate the historical development of theology, poetry, and jurisprudence, constitute a celebration of culture equal in scope to Dante’s Paradise and Limbo combined (de Santis, de Vecchi 12). Raphael’s later works again focused on the Madonna and Child. Every time the different paintings came into existence, they each held different personalities yet always had an intimate and gentle composition. His final work, The Transfiguration, displayed in the Vatican, exhibits how Raphael’s work and style started to move toward a greater emotion and movement in the characters of the portrait.
In Rome, where his art came to life, he died; in the year 1520. Raphael is out of favour today; his works seem too perfect, too faultless for our slipshod age. Yet these great icons of human beauty can never fail to stir us: his Vatican murals can stand fearlessly beside the Sistine ceiling. The School of Athens, for example, monumentally immortalizing the great philosophers, is unrivaled in its classic grace. Raphael’s huge influence on successive artists is all the more impressive considering his short life (Web Museum 4).
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