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Tracing Raphael’s Career Development


Raphael was a prolific Italian artist who made a mark in art and architecture. He was born in 1493 and was privileged to work under the mentorship of his father, who was himself a court painter. Raphael’s hometown, Urbino, was a cultural center contributing immensely to his early career. Other than his father’s influence and the surrounding environment, Pietro Vannunci, famously known as Perugino, played a significant role in mentoring Raphael. He was also influenced by other art icons, including Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo and Fra Bartolommeo. Raphael was a master painter who skillfully integrated styles from other artists to create his signature, making him the quintessential high renaissance artist.

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Raffaello Sanzio was a talented artist who contributed to the Italian art Renaissance. His works stand out for artistic style, clarity and Neoplatonic ideals. His ease of composition is notable in most of his art. Though he had a shorter life than other great artists of his time, Raphael’s contributions were significant. From the time his father died to the papal commissions he undertook in Rome, the artist proved his skill, often delivering outstanding masterpieces. Raphael’s main strength was his ability to quickly learn from other artists, including Perugino, Da Vinci and Michelangelo. Raphael’s painting career can be broken down into three phases. The first phase started when he was under the apprentice of Perugino (Theartstory, 2021). This phase lasted about four years, happening between 1500 to around 1504. The second phase is marked by his move to Florentine, where he met industry icons like Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo. The phase lasted only four years, between 1504 and 1508. Raphael’s final career includes a collection of his works while working at the papacy in Rome. The phase lasted 12 years, starting in 1508 and ending in 1520 when the artist succumbed to a fever. Therefore, Raphael’s professional painting commenced in 1500 in Umbria and ended in Rome.

Raphael’s Early Career

Raphael’s career started early, buoyed by a town known for culture and a family with a history of painting. When his father died in 1494, Raphael took over the management of the family studio. He was 11 years old when he took over the workshop (Britannica, 2021). The move exposed the artist to art and grew his skills to the point of being commissioned to paint San Nicola, a church in Castello, a neighboring town. In 1500, Raphael travelled to Umbria to work under Perugino, an already established painter. The apprenticeship set the foundation for Raphael into professional painting. He gained artistic knowledge and hands-on skills that later defined his career. Raphael proved to be one of the sharpest students to ever work under Perugino. Raphael’s notable paintings in this phase include the Mond Crucifixion produced in 1502 and the Marriage of the Virgin created in 1504 (da Silva, n.d). Therefore, this first stage set the pace for the second and the final phases of Raphael’s career.

Raphael in Florentine Madonna

In 1504, Raphael moved to Florentine, where he met and worked with Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Masaccio and Fra Bartolomeo. The artist learned remarkable skills that became instrumental in his later life. His primary mentors during this period were Leonardo and Michelangelo, from whom he incorporated some features from their styles. Raphael’s famous works at Florentine were the Madonna series inspired by Leonardo, such as Madonna and Child (Metmuseum, 2021). More Madonna paintings include the Madonna of Goldfinch and Madonna Del Prato, both of 1505 (Artbible, 2021). In 1507, he produced the Esterhazy Madonna. While Raphael’s works had elements of his two mentors, he developed a differentiating signature. For instance, he incorporated Leonard’s chiaroscuro and sfumato but produced more refined and calmer figures. His style was also extroverted away from the dark intensity and excitement that punctuated Leonardo and Michelangelo’s artworks. Therefore, Florentine civilized Raphael’s Perugian painting style, preparing him for the final phase of his career in Rome.

Raphael’s Rome and Papal Commissions

The end of 1508 marked the beginning of Raphael’s most illustrious career. He secured a job in the Vatican courtesy of Pope Julius II. From 1508, the artist established himself as a master from a little known painter. The years spent at the papacy were marked by remarkable success, with the artist playing a central role in the decoration of Pope’s apartments. His first official assignment at the Vatican was the Stanze della segnatura done between 1508 to1511 (Raphael’s Rooms, 2021). The painting is Raphael’s most famous frescoes and is tied to the high renaissance. The artist brings out the allegories of theology, justice, philosophy and poetry in the paintings. A year later, Raphael started decorating Stanza di’ Eliodoro, an assignment undertaken between 1512 and 1514 (Biography, 2021). Pope Julius wanted the room decorated for his private audience, although he died at the end of the project. The death of the Pope did not affect Raphael’s work; thus he continued to work under Pope Leo X.

On the instructions of Leo X, Raphael painted the walls of stanza dell’Incendio between 1514 and 1517. He also painted portraits of Baldassare Castiglione of 1516 and Leo X with two cardinals of 1519 (da Silva, n.d). Raphael’s other notable works in Rome were the ten tapestries completed between 1516 and 1519. These works depict Christ’s various miracles, including the healing of the lame man and the sacrifice of Lystra. Raphael continued his paintings on the Madonna series delivering the Madonna of Foligno, Alba Madonna, and Sistine Madonna. Raphael also worked on architecture, designing Saint Eligio, Santa Maria’s Chigi chapel and palaces (Biography, 2021). The artist’s last assignment was the transfiguration which was commissioned in 1517. However, the artist died when the project was midway and was completed by his assistant Giulio Romano. Raphael died at the age of 37 after spending 12 years in Rome. Raphael achieved so much in limited time-space, managing to define his art style, thus making him a quintessential high renaissance artist.


In conclusion, Raphael cuts the image of a master in the art arena. Starting his career in Urbino and ending it in Rome, the artist showcases exceptional talent through his artworks. Florentine was Raphael’s career turning point as he benefited from the mentorship of Leonardo and Michelangelo. The skills earned in Florentine played a significant role in helping him secure a job in Rome, where he worked with Pope Julius II and Leo X in his final 12 years. His famous works include the Madonna series and Stanze della segnatura. Raphael died at the age of 37 in 1520 but left an indelible mark in art. His agility in learning other artists’ styles and incorporating them in his works without losing his signature places him ahead of the pack.

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Artbible. (2021). Raphael: Madonna of the Goldfinch. Web.

TheartStory. (2021). Raphael Biography, Life & Quotes. The Art Story. Web.

Biography. (2021). Raphael. Biography. Web.

Britannica. (2021). Raphael | Biography, Artworks, Paintings, Accomplishments, Death, & Facts. Encyclopedia Britannica. Web.

da Silva, R. Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino A collection of paintings [Ebook] (pp. 1-43). Web.

Metmuseum. (2021). Web.

Raphael’s Rooms, 2021. Room of the Segnatura. [Online] Web.

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