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==Life and times of Raphael==
Raphael was born on April 6, 1483, in Urbino, Italy. At this time Urbino
, a small dukedom in the Papal States and one of the centers of the Renaissance. His father was Giovanni Santi, who was the court painter for the Duke of Urbino. It appears that Raphael’s father taught him the basics of painting at an early age. His childhood was idyllic, but his mother died when he was eight and his father died when he was just eleven. Remarkably, while still a child it is claimed that he took over his father’s workshop and he became an accomplished painter <ref>Gould, Cecil, The Sixteenth Century Italian Schools (National Gallery Catalogues, London 1975), p. 13</ref>. This story may be apocryphal, because the young man was later apprenticed to the well-known painter Perugino, in Umbria. While serving his apprenticeship he worked on frescoes and learned new techniques. Raphael soon developed his own unique style as seen in the Oddi Altar place, completed in 1503. From an early age, he was committed to demonstrating the grandeur of humanity, probably under the influence of Neoplatonism. After completing his apprenticeship, the young painter moved to Florence, where he studied the works of Leonardo and others. He composed a series of paintings on the Madonna (Virgin Mary) and this made him famous. He attracted the attention of Pope Julius II who commissioned him to paint the Vatican ‘Stanze’, a suite of reception rooms in the Papal Palace. Raphael painted a number of massive frescoes, among the most famous of these is the School of Athens, a painting of the great ancient Greek philosophers. He labored for over four years to create a cycle of frescoes that include the Triumph of Religion. These images express the Christian humanist philosophy that was prevalent in Rome at the time. These paintings were very well-received, and the Pope commissioned another set of frescoes in other Vatican room, the Room of Heliodorus. These works are considered among the greatest works of the High Renaissance. At the same time, Michelangelo was painting the Sistine Chapel and he came to dislike the younger painter. He began to suspect that Raphael was conspiring with others against him. Michelangelo accused the young man from Urbino of plagiarising his work, but no one took this seriously. <ref>Liebert, Robert S. "Raphael, Michelangelo, Sebastiano: High Renaissance Rivalry." Source: Notes in the History of Art 3, no. 2 (1984): 60-68</ref>. While working on the Vatican Rooms, Raphael, established a workshop, where, he and his assistants, produced a great many paintings of the Virgin Mary, including the renowned Sistine Madonna. He also painted many notable portraits at the time, including that of Pope Julius II and two cardinals (1519) and the astounding character study of the writer Baldassare Castiglione (1516). Raphael was a tireless worker and he also produced many great cartoons and he is widely regarded as one of the greatest draughtsmen in all western art. Raphael like the other great Renaissance figures was a man of many talents, and he was also an architect. Raphael had great respect for the classical past and he was one of the first to display an interest in archaeology. He urged the Pope to stop the destruction of ancient ruins. It was often the case that old buildings were pulled down and their materials recycled in new buildings. Raphael was appointed the commissioner of antiquities for the city of Rome by Julius II and in this role, he preserved many ruins, collected inscriptions and drew up a map of the archaeology of Rome. By 1512, the painter was in charge of all the Papacy’s artistic projects. He was a very popular figure in Rome and was notorious for his many affairs. He became engaged to a niece of a Cardinal but appears that he was reluctant to marry because he was deeply in love with his mistress and model, Margarita Luti, known as La Fornarina whom he painted many times. Raphael fell gravely ill and died on Good Friday 1517, which many believe was also the date of his birth. It has been suggested that he died of overwork, but given the unhealthy environment of Rome, he could have died of some infectious disease. In his will, he left most of his estate to his beloved Margarita. Raphael was buried in the Pantheon in Rome, a singular distinction and indicates his fame at the time of his death. His early death possibly meant that he did not achieve even more.
[[File: Raphael 2.jpg|200px|thumb|left| Frescoes in the Vatican]]
==Raphael’s influence on painting==
Raphael had an enormous impact on the history of painting in the Renaissance. His work was very classical in style and in this regard it was similar to Michelangelo and Leonardo. However, he took painting in a new direction and he was prepared to show the emotional life of his subject. Previously artists had been reluctant to show emotions in a realistic way under the influence of classical art. Raphael was not afraid to portray his subjects in an emotionally realistic way and this made him very popular. In particular, it meant that he was a much-admired portraitist. His portraits are concerned among some of the finest that has ever been composed and influenced painters during the later Renaissance and even later. Raphael was not an innovator in painting techniques but perfected many techniques. This gave his works a very harmonious quality that was much admired and emulated. Raphael’s ‘sprezzatura' or naturalness was especially praised <ref>Piper, David.The Illustrated History of Art. 2004. Octopus Printing: UK) </ref>. Despite his great artistry, he was able to conceal it and nothing painted by him every appears to be contrived or forced. It is claimed that this naturalness and effortlessness was something that even the great Michelangelo envied. In some of Raphael’s works, such as his frescoes in the Vatican we can see the beginnings of a new school of painting. The Urbino artist’s, contrasts of light and dark, and use of dramatic colors inspired the development of the Mannerist School <ref>Piper, p 202</ref>. This was a movement that includes painters such as Tintoretto and influenced the work of El Greco. Raphael is considered to be one of the great religious painters in the Christian tradition of all time and his depictions of the crucifixion of Christ are considered to be masterpieces. However, it is his depictions of the Madonna, or Mary the mother of Jesus Christ that has been particularly admired. Raphael’s portrayal of the Madonna changed the course of religious art in the Renaissance and indeed to this day, the many representations of the Virgin Mary, show the mark of his influence. Raphael was enormously influential and was called the ‘Prince of Painters’ by the first art historian Giorgio Vasari <ref> Vasari, Giorgio (2000). Lives of the Painters (London, Penguin, 2000), p. 178</ref>. Raphael was not only influential in how own day but also later. His fame was eclipsed by others in the Baroque, but he was extremely popular in the 19th century and was widely emulated.