Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Raphael in Rome

Raffaello Sanzio was born in Urbino on 6th April 1483, son of Giovanni Santi, court painter to the Duke of Urbino. The young Raphael was treated like a prince and, unlike Michelangelo, knew the manners and etiquette of life at court.

He learned to paint by copying his father, who also provided him with his earliest patrons.

He moved to Florence in 1504 where he studied the works of Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Masaccio, Giotto and Donatello.

In Rome Pope Julius II had employed Bramante, a relative of Raphael’s, as architect and it was on Bramante's recommendation that Raphael was appointed artist to the Papal Court. His task was to paint the Pope’s private apartments in the Vatican, now known as the ‘Raphael Rooms’.

Two of the four rooms, Stanza di Eliodoro & Stanze della Segnatura were entirely painted by Raphael and include his most famous fresco, The School of Athens.

'The Mass of Bolsena' in the Stanza di Eldorado includes a self portrait of Raphael within the group of Swiss Guards.

Agostino Chigi, wealthy banker to the papacy, became a friend as well as patron to Raphael. They both loved women & parties. Chigi commissioned Raphael to paint frescoes in his palazzo, Villa Farnesina, and gave him a suite of rooms where Raphael installed his mistress.

Raphael drew up the designs for the Loggia of Psyche, a beautiful hall which opened directly onto the garden. The decoration, the work of Raphael's student, is intended to give the impression of an open pergola, garlanded with fruit and flowers, some of which, such as sweetcorn, had only recently arrived from the New World.

Leading from this room is the Loggia di Galatia where Raphael was responsible for the depiction of a statuesque blond sea maiden riding the waves on a seashell pulled by two dolphins.

As an architect Raphael was also responsible for designing the Chigi Chapel in the church of Santa Maria del Popolo. Agostono Chigi died four days after Raphael and was laid to rest here.

Agostino Chigi also commissioned the fresco of the Sybils in the church of Santa Maria della Pace. Each of the four Sibyls is seen receiving a revelation from an angel.

A good view of this can be seen from the caffetteria of the Chiostro del Bramante.

At the time Raphael was working in the Vatican he also produced ‘The Prophet Isaiah’ in the church of Sant’Agostino. This church was the centre of worship for the charmed circle of intellectuals to which Raphael belonged. It was also the preferred church of the great courtesans who were friends and companions of these artists and writers.

The portrait of La Fornarina in Palazzo Barberini was completed by Raphael in the year that he died. The subject is believed to be Margherita Luti, daughter of a local baker and Raphael’s mistress. Raphael's name can be seen on the bracelet and during restoration a ruby ring was discovered on the third finger of the left hand which hints at a betrothal. 

At the time, Raphael was engaged to Maria Bibiena, niece of a patron and one theory is that the ring was covered up on Raphael's untimely death to preserve his social status.
On his deathbed it is said that he sent his mistress away and four months later she retired to the convent of St. Apollonia in Trastevere.

Raphael died on Good Friday 1520 at the age of 37 and is buried in the Pantheon.

At Raphael's request Maria's name is commemorated in a plaque to the right of his tomb. Two of Raphael's pupils lie near him, including Giovanni da Udine who was responsible for the garland frescoes in Villa Farnesina.

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