Raffaelo biography, life and work

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When the word Renaissance is mentioned, three big names always come to mind, the three great artists: Michelangelo Buonarroti, Leonardo da Vinci and Raffaello Santi.

Artists who entrusted the world with beautiful works, works that inspire, incite and delight us.

The youngest of them, Raffaello Santi, who unfortunately lived a short life (only 37 years), will create a huge number of works, which is a real miracle for such a short lifespan.

Raffaello was born in 1483 in Urbino, to father Giovanni Santi (painter) and mother Magia Ciarla. He became an orphan very young, so at the age of 11, according to a previous recommendation from his father, he will go to live in the court of the Duke of Urbino and the Duchess Elisabetta Gonzaga.

In this beautiful palace he will get acquainted with works of art by famous masters (Piero della Francesca, Melozzo da Forlì, Giusto, etc.) which will undoubtedly have a great influence on him.

The painter Timoteo Viti will selflessly give him advice and help as his teacher, but he still gets the principal knowledge from his father.

At the turn of the century he moved to Perugia at the workshop of Pietro Vannucci, known by his nickname Perugino. He immediately attracts his attention and becomes his favorite student. From him he will learn the most sensitive secrets and tricks of the new painting technique, oil – which the Flemish masters have perfected and disseminated. During this period he will paint “Marriage of the Virgin” which is influenced by Perugino.

In 1504 he goes to Florence, where at that moment the two great artists Leonardo and Michelangelo are present, competing to paint the walls of the Palazzo Vecchio. The frescoes are not finished, but the cartoons that were presented to the public will arouse great interest in all of Florence, and of course in Raffaello. Here he will study Leonardo’s “style” and will often meet with  the maestro trying to penetrate the secret of that unspoken play of light and shadow.  That will be sensed in those gentle images of the Mother of God that Raffaello painted in Florence. By nature, he is extremely receptive, so he was greatly influenced by Michelangelo…









Raffaello left Florence in 1508 and moved to Rome. Pope Julius II sat on the papal throne at that time. With the pledge by his fellow citizen from Urbino, the famous architect Bramante, Raffaello is introduced to the Pope, from whom he receives a flattering order to paint 4 rooms of the papal apartment in the Vatican, known as Stanze: Stanza della Segnatura (Room of the Segnatura), Stanza di Eliodoro (Room of Heliodorus), Stanza dell’Incendio del Borgo (Room of the Fire in the Borgo) in the “al fresco” technique.

Thus he comes to the peak of his fame, with a mild character, lavishly dressed and with a beautiful appearance, surrounded by a large number of fans and followers. His name is famous, and among humanists he is known in its Latin form – Sanzio. He was not envious and knew how to admire the greatness of other artists. Namely, when he saw some of Michelangelo’s frescoes in the Sistine Chapel, he was so fascinated that he applied some of the solutions to his frescoes in Santa Maria della Pace.

He led a very dynamic life in which he lived life to the fullest; especially there was talk of his exaggeration in love. He was in love with Margherita Luti, the girl who posed for him and he tirelessly painted her.

Because she was the daughter of a baker, she was nicknamed Fornarina (baker). She becomes his mistress with whom he spends a lot of time and is the reason why Raffaello rejected many marriage proposals. Some experts believe that in the work “Sistine Madonna” the image is actually Fornarina.

In 1513 Pope Julius II dies, Pope Leo X (Medici), a great connoisseur of art and patron, is elected his successor, and Santi becomes his favorite painter. After Bramante’s death, the pope appointed Raffaello as chief architect for the construction of Saint Peter’s Basilica. The following year he received a new papal decree-conservator of Roman antiquities, namely becoming an archaeologist and researcher. His work as an archaeologist is significant.

After the Stanze the Pope gives him a new order, the Lodges, which consisted of a series of 16 arcades, should be painted. Raffaello decorated each arcade with four paintings. The first twelve arcades depict scenes from the Old Testament, while the thirteenth is dedicated to the New Testament. It is a bible of a kind, narrated in pictures, so Raffaello becomes the greatest illustrator of all time.

Death arrives too soon. He died on Good Friday, April 6, 1520. His students placed “The Transfiguration”, his last work on which he worked when he fell ill, at the head of the bier. It will be completed by his best student, Giulio Romano.

“The world paraded past the painting and the bier, and looking at the dead body and the living painting, the soul was torn with pain for everyone who looked at them,” Vasari wrote. He is buried in the Pantheon.