Quanto largo e benigno si
dimostri talora il cielo
nell’accumulare in una persona sola l’infinite ricchezze de’ suoi
tesori e tutte quelle grazie e’ più rari doni
che in lungo spazio di tempo suol compartire fra molti individui,
chiaramente poté vedersi nel non meno eccellente che grazioso Raffael
Sanzio da Urbino
Taken from Le Vite
dei più eccellenti pittori, scultori e architetti; Giorgio Vasari, 1568.
a period in which the artistic and cultural fervour of the ducal Marches
seemed endless, “nacque adunque Raffaello in Urbino, città notissima
in Italia, l’anno 1483, in venerdì santo a ore tre di notte”
[Raffaello was born in Urbino, a very famous Italian town, in 1483, on the
Good Friday, at three a.m. Taken from Vite, by G. Vasari]. The
great painter Raffaello Sanzio was born in a room on the ground floor of a
typically 15th-century house, in Urbino. His father was Giovanni
Santi (a painter belonging to the group of Melozzo da Forlì). He soon
realized how talented his only son was as a painter, and managed to guide
him in his bright career. In just a few years Raffaello Sanzio became the
most renowned painter, sought after by courts and Popes, and now worldly
known as one of the greatest painters of all times.
Raffaello abandoned the Marches when
he was very young, to become a pupil of Pietro Vannucci, called il
Perugino. He soon achieved such perfection that “fra le cose sue
e di Pietro non si sapeva certo discernere” [“It was impossible to
distinguish between Raffaello’s and Pietro’s works”. Taken from Le
Vite by G. Vasari].
Blessing, The Virgin’s Wedding, and the Standard of Città di Castello were
painted around 1500 and already possessed a refined artistic sensitivity.
Raffaello had the chance to evolve and make such sensitivity sublime
during his stay in Florence. The painter was able to live in an artistic
environment which stirred him considerably: he came into contact with
works by Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo Buonarroti. He
elaborated a more mature and sublime style, made of intense brightness and
limpid spatial articulations. Such characteristics may be admired in the
series of Virgins suavely portrayed by Raffaello (such as the Virgin
of the goldfinch, the Virgin of the Meadow and the Virgin of the
Grand- Duke), in the splendid portraits of Agnolo and Maddalena
Doni, in The Lady with the Unicorn, in The Mute Lady (exhibited in the
National gallery of the Marches, in Urbino), as well as in more complex
subjects, such as the Holy Family Canigiani
and Christ being taken to the Sepulcher.
Raffaello kept in touch with the
Montefeltro Court, despite the distance, and he painted many panels for
the Dukes of Urbino. Unfortunately such works were taken away from the
region. A clear example of this is the painting called St. George and
the Dragon, which is currently on display at the National Gallery of
Art, in Washington.
In 1508 Raffaello was already much
sought after and Pope Julius II entrusted him with the task of decorating
the Vatican Halls. Raffaello’s most famous frescoes in these halls are
the Dispute over the Sacrament, The School of Athens and the Liberation
of St. Peter from Jail. In the same period the artist also worked in
the Chigi Chapel in Santa Maria della Pace and to the portrait
of Julius II.
When the Pope died Raffaello worked
for private customers, both from Rome and other cities. In that period he
painted the beautiful Portrait of Baldassarre Castiglione,
the Altar Piece portraying St. Cecily the Holy Conversation and
the celebrated Fornarina. He also worked as an architect and humanist, when Donato Bramante,
another artist from Urbino died, under the new Pope Leon X Raffaello
became the manager of St. Peter’s works and the designer of the Chigi
Chapel in Santa Maria del Popolo and Villa Madama.
He died in 1520, leaving an intense Transfiguration
unaccomplished, “finì il corso della sua vita il giorno medesimo
che nacque, che fu il venerdì santo, d’anni 37” [“the course of
his life ended, on the same day when he was born, namely on a Good Friday,
when he was 37”. Taken from Le Vite by G. Vasari]. Raffaello is
still admired worldwide for his ability in portraying the supreme ideal of
beauty of the Renaissance.
paintings are scattered all over the world, from the National Galley of
London to the Uffizi in Florence, the Louvre in Paris and the
Hermitage in Saint Petersburg, the Picture Gallery of Brera, in Milan, and
the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. However, the house where he was
born now hosts the Accademia Raffaello.
It is located in one of the many steep alleys of Urbino, and has the same
sober decorations that frame the doors and refine the ancient caisson. On
a wall a small fresco portraying the Virgin with the Christ Child
Sleeping bears witness to the first brushworks by Raffaello, who was
bound to be one of the major artists of the Renaissance.
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