Raphael Sanzio was born in 1483 in the province of Umbria and received provincial training in the workshop of Pietro Perugino.
At the age of seventeen, he proved himself to be one of the most promising of the younger painters but was still much influenced by Perugino's work. This can be seen in his early painting "Assumption and Coronation of the Virgin" and in "The Crucifixion" now in the National Gallery, London.
Both of these paintings were completed when the artist was about twenty. This is a condensed account of the artist's life, to read the full version go to Raphael's Biography.
Arriving in Florence the young artist soon realised the limitations of his apprenticeship in Umbria. He was faced with the daunting challenge presented by the work of Leonardo and Michelangelo and set out to study and learn from their paintings and sculptures.
Raphael lacked the depth of knowledge of a Leonardo and could not match Michelangelo's power, he was a likeable and even-tempered artist, virtues that made him a favourite with potential patrons.
His two great predecessors and rivals could both be difficult to get on with and proved to be unpredictable when carrying out their commissions, and so the young artist was able to compete despite the reputations of the two great masters.
At this time the artist was also influenced by the painter Fra Bartolomeo from Tuscany and the two remained on friendly terms, but the influence of Leonardo was apparent in "The Madonna of the Meadow" 1506.
The artist is noted for his many images of the Madonna. The
message of purity that the Madonna symbolises is an important one for Christians
and the wealthy and important private clients of the Renaissance demanded
pictures of the Virgin for their private devotion, a demand that Raphael was
eager to satisfy. The Madonna was a subject that stayed with him throughout his
short life, it is remarkable that he was able to offer such diversity, without repetition,
in his depictions of the Holy Mother.
Raphael's Madonna paintings.