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Raphael Sanzio - 16th Century Italian Renaissance Painter

Updated on May 19, 2017

Raffaello Sanzio was a famous Italian renaissance painter known to most people as Raphael. He was known to be a highly prolific artist who was not only a famous renaissance artist but also a mural decorator, designer of tapestries, an architect and a prolific artist of easel pictures.

 Raphael as a Youth
Raphael as a Youth | Source

Amongst the most valuable accessories of the 16th century, Italy is majolica wares and while in his youth, Raphael worked as an "ornamenter" of majolica pottery, an item of value which was produced in Urbino, Deruta and Faenza.

These beautiful potteries were painted by minor artists and he was employed as such.

Raphael who died young in 1520 at the age of thirty-seven, was a master of composition who borrowed ideas from a number of painters.

He was known to possess unique capabilities of imagination coupled with a high intellect even as many of his paintings seemingly lacked virility and appeared cold in colour.

The renaissance artist’s career which eventually brought him much fame can be said to fall within three clearly distinguishable phases being:

  1. His early years in 15th century Umbria
  2. His learning of the artistic traditions of Florence in the very early 16th century which lasted from 1504 to 1508
  3. The last twelve years he spent in Rome which was a period of prolific creations of his renaissance paintings and triumphant times of fame and popularity where he had the golden opportunity of working for two Popes and their close acquaintances.

This famous artist painted many pious spiritual themes with religious subjects, at a time when the religious importance and its significance was waning and were a famous painter with the Popes of his time. And asides being the architect of St. Peter's, he was commissioned to decorate the papal apartments of Julius II and Leo X.

Raphael is credited as the originator of the "birth of portrait painting” because of the style he used whilst painting the portrait of Julius II.

Famous Works of Raphael

Raphael was an idol of sorts during his time and was adored by lovers of the arts and paintings so much so that even for the times, he was always "swamped" with many orders for his works.

And though he was an Umbrian born in Urbino in 1483, yet the best of his paintings was done in Rome and Florence in the early 1500s.

Some of Raphael’s famous works of art include his "Madonna's" which he painted during his association with his model and friend, Bella.

He is most known for his paintings of the Madonna.

La Belle Jardinière

This is one of Raphael’s famous works. It is a painting where The Virgin Mary sits in a meadow with a tender and realistic demeanour, holding two children against her knees.

The School of Athens

In this fresco work, which he painted in the Vatican, he successfully summed up the essence of Italian renaissance paintings.

Fire in the Borgo

This is one of Raphael's murals that show his typical style of painting nude muscular and combatant figures, an influence from Michelangelo paintings.

The Transfiguration

This thought provoking painting created in 1516, is supposedly the last work of the Italian renaissance artist. Its theme and subject matter was believed to express a connection between God and man.

According to historical records, he left The Transfiguration uncompleted and it is believed to have been finished by Giulio Romano who was his student shortly after his demise in 1520.

His Latter Years

He painted portraits in the latter years of his short life where he avoids sublime looks and uses more realistic earthly facial expressions and profiles.

Perhaps had Raphael lived much longer who knows what his potential production could have been. But even with his untimely death, his reputation has hardly suffered in nearly five hundred years.

Today at the Vatican Museums, you'll still find some of his paintings in the Raphael Rooms, much of which was completed by his students due to his early demise while in his late thirties.

© 2012 artsofthetimes


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    • artsofthetimes profile image

      artsofthetimes 4 years ago

      Thank you classichawaiian.

    • artsofthetimes profile image

      artsofthetimes 5 years ago

      Thanks for reminding me about Raphael's awesome last painting. I must make mention of it.

      Thanks for visiting Searchinsany.

    • searchinsany profile image

      Alexander Gibb 5 years ago from UK

      Very interesting and beautifully presented. My particular favourite is 'The Transfiguration'.