Monday, October 6, 2014

Raphael Sanzio

The Italian painter Raphael was born in Urbino, 1483. At that time the city was a flourishing cultural center due to patronage of Fedrigo da Montefeltro. His father, Giovanni Santi (ca. 1435/40-1494), benefitted from this arts scene as he had contacts with influential patrons in the city and worked as a painter for da Montefeltro. Raphael worked in his father’s studio, although no drawings from his early childhood remain. At age of eleven, his father died. Rapahel continued to work in the studio together with his father’s collaborator Evangelista di Pian di Meleto (ca. 1458-1549).

The most prominent Umbrian painter at that time was Pietro Perugino (ca.1450-1523). He was the most important influence on Raphael’s early career. One the most famous pieces from that time is Coronation of St. Nicholas of Tolentino. Raphael and Evangelista worked on the altarpiece together but already then Raphael was the “magister” (master).

His preparatory for Coronation of St. Nicholas of Tolentino drawings show extensive influence of Perugino in the later 1490s. Retrieved from
His preparatory for Coronation of St. Nicholas of Tolentino drawings show extensive influence of Perugino in the later 1490s. Retrieved from

Around 1502 the greatest impact of Perugino’s style can be seen in Raphael’s work. He created a large collection of metalpoint figures from life studies, which was Perugino’s most successful mode. This was a crucial advancement in figure drawing for Raphael’s future. Raphael’s drawings at this time were mostly compositional drafts in pen and ink. He worked with “auxiliary cartoons”, which were drawings of full-scale heads to prepare himself for his paintings. His approach to painting was craftsman-like.

An example of his crafts-man like methodology is that he pricked the outlines of his drawings, as in Knight’s Dream. Retrieved from'The-Knight's-Dream'-1504.html
Around 1504/1505 Raphael moved to Florence where he was influenced by artists such as Leonardo, Michelangelo and Fra Bartolomeo. His drawings at this were still mostly in pen and ink. His lines became more flowing and loose and his arrangements more intuitive.

Study drawings for Entombment, his most complex project in Florence, show his development in terms of lines and arrangement. Retrieved from
Some of his most famous Madonna paintings were created in Florence. Retrieved from:

In late 1508 Raphael moved to Rome, called by Pope Julius II (1443-1513) to paint frescoes in the Stanza della Segnatura, a reception room in the papal apartments. Raphael demonstrated such giftedness in decorating the room that he was soon given control over this and three other rooms, the Stanza di Eliodoro, the Stanza dell’Incendio del Borgo and the Sala di Constantino. The project lasted from 1508-1524. Its size and complexity made step-wise preparation necessary and thus enhanced his preparatory techniques greatly. He started with compositional drafts with brush and ink, which were followed by figure and drapery studies in chalk, pen and ink. The final step was a full-scale black-chalk cartoon that incorporated all the previous studies. In contrast, his preparations for Entombment had not been a gradual process but rather a collection of separate study drawings.
On the ceiling there were four women whom he each gave attributes of either Philosophy, Theology, Poetry or Jurisprudence. His associations with the four themes were then painted on the walls below. For example, the “Poetry Wall” showed the poet Parnassus. Retrieved from[detail--1]-I-large.html.
This project made Raphael one of Rome’s principal painters of the time, next to Michelangelo. One of his major projects was working as a chief architect on rebuilding St. Peter’s Basilica starting in 1514. The organization of his studio gave him an advantage over Michelangelo; he was able to direct a group of assistants and thus to work on multiple projects at the same time while Michelangelo only allowed the most basic tasks to be carried out by assistants. Raphael was still directly involved in all of his projects but the extent differed with the amount of other commitments, the complexity of the project and the prominence of the patron. He continued to develop each project systematically and each one remained unique, not just one from a production line.

An example for his involvement in the developmental process of a piece were ten preparatory paintings for a series of tapestries, The Acts of the Apostles, for Pope Leo X. This tapestry cartoon is called Christ’s Charge to Peter. Retrieved from

One of Raphael’s primary assistants in Rapahel’s late studio was Giulio Romano. For some projects he even produced drawings that were of equal value to Raphael’s. Nevertheless, Raphael continued to be influential in all his projects.

Raphael was especially involved in The Transformation. He developed and painted most of it himself. Retrieved from

Since there was no fixed labor division in his studio it is difficult to clearly determine his predominant techniques at that time. In the mid 1510s he mostly worked with pen, and metalpoint and the popular red chalk for his drawings. In the late 1510s black chalk was most prominent. Raphael focused only on the most important lines, but drew those especially concise.

His line work can be seen in the study drawing for the fresco of The Battle of the Milvian Bridge. Retrieved from

Raphael died on April 6, 1520 from short illness. Despite being only thirty-seven-years-old he had an exceptional reputation as an artist in Rome. He was buried in Pantheon in Rome.

I chose Raphael because he is one of the most significant artists of the Renaissance. Raphael, together with Leonardo and Michelangelo, shaped Renaissance art and served as a model for many artists to follow. Whenever I visit any art museum the Renaissance section is what draws me the most. I always spend the majority of my time there, marveling at liveliness of the paintings, the clarity of them and how realistic they look. I find Raphael’s depictions especially engaging; I almost feel like I become a part of them while studying them. Before researching Raphael more in depth, I had never taken a look at his study drawings. I really liked looking through the drawings of Raphael because I can learn so much from his techniques. His curved lines give the figures so much energy and make their gesture and postures seem dynamic. The shading in correspondence with lines of varying intensity, his drawings create depth very well while moreover highlighting the most important parts of the image and thus directing the eye of the viewer very well.

Works Cited

Raphael and His Circle : Drawings from Windsor Castle. Eds. England) Queen's Gallery (London and Windsor Castle. Royal Library. London; New York: Merrell Holberton; Distributed in the USA by Rizzoli International Publications through St. Martin's Press, 1999. Print.

Raphael : Drawings. Eds. Joachim W. Jacoby, Martin Sonnabend, and Städtische Galerie im Städelschen Kunstinstitut Frankfurt am Main. Munich: Hirmer Verlag 2012, 2012. Print.

Raphael Sanzio. The Oxford Dictionary of the Renaissance. Ed. Campell, Gordon.: Oxford University Press, 2003. Oxford Reference. 2005. Date Accessed 6 Oct. 2014. Web. <>.

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