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Joy of Museums

Museums, Art Galleries and Historical Sites

Raphael

Raphael

Raphael

Raphael (1483–1520) was an Italian painter and architect of the High Renaissance. His work is admired for its clarity of form, ease of composition, and together with Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, he is one of the great masters of that period. Raphael was enormously productive, despite his death at 37, he created a large body of work.

Many of Raphael’s works are in the Vatican Palace, where the frescoed Raphael Rooms were central, and the largest, work of his career. The best-known work is The School of Athens in the Vatican.

His career started in Umbria, and then he spent for four years in Florence, absorbing the artistic renaissance of Florence. During his last twelve years in Rome, he mainly worked for two Popes and their associates.

After his death, the influence of his rival Michelangelo was more widespread. Then in the 19th centuries, Raphael’s harmonious works were reevaluated, and he regained his popularity for his many masterpieces.

Raphael’s Masterpieces

Madonna in the Meadow

“Madonna in the Meadow” by Raphael depicts three figures in a meadow all linked by looks and touching hands. The figures represent the Madonna with the Christ Child and Saint John the Baptist as a child. The Madonna is shown wearing a gold-bordered blue mantle, set against a red dress and with her right leg lying along a diagonal. The blue symbolizes the church and the red Christ’s death, with the Madonna uniting the Church with Christ’s sacrifice. In her hands, she holds up Christ, as he leans forward to touch the cross held by John. The poppy refers to Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection. Museum: Kunsthistorisches Museum

Raphael

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The Alba Madonna

“The Alba Madonna” by Raphael depicts three figures all looking at the cross; they represent the Madonna with the Christ Child and Saint John the Baptist as a child. The figures are grouped to the left in the round composition, and the outstretched arm of the Madonna and the resting elbow on the stump with her enveloping cloak balance the group image. The painting is full of symbolism with Madonna shown wearing a blue mantle, set against a red dress and with her right leg lying along a diagonal. The blue symbolizes the church and the red Christ’s death, with the Madonna uniting the Church with Christ’s sacrifice. In her lap, she holds Christ, as he stretches out to touch the cross carried by John. Museum: National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

Raphael

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The School of Athens

“The School of Athens” by Raphael is one of the most famous frescoes of the Italian Renaissance. It is widely reproduced because of its artistry and because of the subjects portrayed. In 1508, the 25-year old painter Raphael was summoned to the Vatican by Pope Julius II (1503-13) and given the most important commission of his career, the decoration of the Papal Apartments, including the Stanza Della Segnatura. Raphael used the ample space with imposing coffered vaults to paint imagines of the greatest philosophers, mathematicians, thinkers, and artists of antiquity all in one area to symbolize the School of Athens. Museum: Vatican Museums

Raphael

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Small Cowper Madonna

The “Small Cowper Madonna” by Raphael depicts Mary and the Christ Child, in a 1500s Italian countryside. It was painted around 1505 during the High Renaissance. The composition is centered on the seated Madonna in a bright red dress; she is shown with fair skin and blonde hair. She is sitting comfortably on a wooden bench and across her lap is a dark blue drapery upon which her right hand delicately rests. There is also a sheer translucent ribbon elegantly flowing across the top of her dress and behind her head. The faintest golden halo miraculously surrounds her head. In her left hand, she holds the baby Christ, who embraces her with one arm around her back, the other around her neck. He also has blonde hair and is looking back over his shoulder with a coy smile. Museum: National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

Raphael

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The Madonna of the Pinks

“The Madonna of the Pinks” by Raphael depicts the Virgin Mary playing with the Christ child and handing him carnations. The Italian title is the Madonna of the Carnation. The botanical name of these flowers is dianthus, which in Greek mean ‘flower of God.’ The sunny landscape through the arched window shows a ruined building, symbolizing the collapse of the pagan world at the birth of Christ. The dimly-lit room setting demonstrates the influence of Netherlandish art on this painting. Museum:        National Gallery, London

Raphael

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Christ Falling on the Way to Calvary

“Christ Falling on the Way to Calvary” by Raphael shows Christ carrying the cross to his crucifixion, at the moment when he fell. The foreground of the painting is densely packed with emotional responses, especially his mother’s agony. The group includes Simon of Cyrene, who is centered above Christ and is lifting Christ’s cross momentarily; also, the four Marys are depicted on the bottom right side of the painting. Towering on either side of the composition are the Roman guards. This picture was created during the Italian High Renaissance and is part of the Museo del Prado collection in Madrid. This masterpiece is an essential work for the development of Raphael’s style and reputation. Museum:     Prado Museum, Museo del Prado

Raphael

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The Marriage of the Virgin

“The Marriage of the Virgin” by Raphael depicts a marriage ceremony between Mary and Joseph. A similar themed version by Perugino inspired Raphael, the differences in the two artworks are marked by Raphael’s more subtle and refined style. In this artwork, Raphael also challenged himself to draw the temple in perspective, with evident care, that it is delightful to behold. Painted during the Italian High Renaissance in 1504 this work was commissioned for a Franciscan church. Museum:        Brera Art Gallery, Pinacoteca di Brera

Raphael

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Portrait of Baldassare Castiglione

“Portrait of Baldassare Castiglione” by Raphael depicts Raphael’s friend, the diplomat and humanist Baldassare Castiglione, who is considered the example of the High Renaissance gentleman. Castiglione is seated against an earth-toned background and wears a dark doublet with a trim of squirrel fur and black ribbon. On his head is a turban topped by a beret. The lightest areas are the subject’s face, his white shirt which is billowed out in the front at his chest, and his folded hands. Castiglione is painted with a humane sensitivity characteristic of Raphael’s later portraits. The soft contours of his clothing and rounded beard express the subtlety of the subject’s personality. Museum:         Musée du Louvre

Raffaello

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Self-Portrait

“Self-Portrait” by  Raphael at the age 23, is at the top of this page. Museum:      Uffizi Gallery

Raphael

  • Name:            Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino
  • Born:              1483 – Urbino, Marche, Italy
  • Died:              1520 (aged 37) –  Rome, Italy
  • Movement:    High Renaissance

Raphael: Self-Portrait

  • Title:             Raphael: Self-Portrait (age 23)
  • Artist:           Raphael
  • Date:            1506
  • Medium:      Oil on panel
  • Genre:          Self-portrait
  • Dimensions: Height: 47.5 cm (18.7 ″); Width: 33 cm (12.9 ″)
  • Museum:      Uffizi Gallery

A Tour of Artists

Women in the Arts

Insights into Raphael

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“Time is a vindictive bandit to steal the beauty of our former selves.”
– Raphael

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Photo Credit 1) Raphael [Public domain]

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