Biography of Renaissance Painter Raphael Part 2

About the famous Renaissance painter Raphael, history and biography of the Italian artist.


RAPHAEL (1483-1520)

A man of amazing industry, Raphael simultaneously undertook the architectural plans for St. Peter's Basilica and the design of tapestries for the Sistine Chapel while engaged in painting the Vatican Stanze. Raphael's energy was matched by his popularity. With delicate features, a smooth, beardless complexion, and his hair in a fashionable pageboy, Raphael was nearly as lovely as his paintings. He had an aura of perpetual youth and seemed to blend the qualities of both sexes, gentle to the point of being effeminate, yet self-confident and possessing unquestioned authority. Practically worshiped by the intellectuals and artists of Rome and constantly surrounded by an entourage, he was envied by other giants of his day, but he was always ready with a reply to any jealous taunt. When Michelangelo said to him, "You walk as a general at the head of an army," Raphael retorted, "And you as an executioner going to the scaffold"--referring to the platform Michelangelo used while painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

Although known as "II Divino" (the divine one), Raphael's personal life was far from saintly. He had a reputation for reveling in the sensual, and it was rumored that he engaged in many love affairs. At one time he was betrothed to the niece of Cardinal Babbiena, but the greatest passion of his life was a woman who served as his model for several paintings, including the Sistine Madonna. It is believed that she lived with him until his final illness, at which time he dismissed her from his house but provided generously for her in his will. Regardless of the details of his personal relationships, it is known that the men and women that he loved and knew best inspired the figures in his paintings.

In addition to his role as an artist, Raphael was superintendent of the excavation of ancient Rome. It was while involved in these diggings in the marshes surrounding the city that he contracted the malarial fever that was to take his life. Never robust, and doubtlessly overtaxed by the prodigious amount of work he had undertaken since his youth, Raphael succumbed to the fever. His life cut short at the peak of his artistic powers, Raphael was laid out in state with his unfinished masterpiece The Transfiguration behind his bier. Rome's entire community of artists filed past his coffin, mourning the premature death of their city's last great Renaissance painter.

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