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Born Raffaele Sanzio in 1483, Raphael came to prominence at the court of Pope Julius II, whose portrait he painted in 1512. As a young man, Raphael had spent his early days studying the works of the great masters like Leonardo and Michelangelo. He worked hard on his own technique, and hoped to one day match the skill and versatility of his heroes.

Attractive, good humoured and urbane, Raphael was popular with the cultured men of the Vatican. In 1508 he was given the chance to decorate some of the grandest chambers in Christendom, the private rooms of the Pope.

Julius II
The biggest commission of Raphael's life brought him into direct conflict with one of his idols. Just down the corridor, Michelangelo was engaged in the greatest solo project of the Renaisssance, the painting of the Sistine chapel. Michelangelo, a difficult man at the best of times, resented the young upstart and their rivalry became the stuff of legend.

When Giovanni de'Medici was elected Pope Leo X, he found the affable Raphael often easier to work with than the prickly and demanding Michelangelo.

Raphael painted a portrait of the new Pope with his cousin, Giulio de'Medici, and designed several magnificent buildings under their patronage.

Raphael left his mark on Western art with a characteristic neo-classical style that spread throughout Europe through his numerous students and friends.

Leo X
Vasari wrote of Raphael in his “Lives of the Artists”:
“While we may term other works paintings, those of Raphael are living things; the flesh palpitates, the breath comes and goes, every organ lives, life pulsates everywhere”.

Raphael was a prodigious artist, even more so than Picasso. His genius was cut tragically short when he died of a fever in 1520 at the age of 37.

His art lives on as a shining example of a golden age.

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Pope Leo X   Snapshot: Pope Leo X
Michelangelo Michelangelo: Rival

The Renaissance

- Botticelli
- Donatello
- Ghiberti
- Gozzoli
- Leonardo
- Michelangelo
- Raphael
- Vasari

- The Republic
- Italy at War
- Machiavelli

- Heresy
- Counter-Reformation

Science & Architecture
- Galileo
- Brunelleschi