Raphael was an Italian Renaissance painter who is considered one of the greatest
and most popular artists of all time. He was born Raffaello Santi or Raffaello Sanzio in
Urbino on April 6, 1483. He received his early training in art from his father, the painter,
Giovanni Santi. According to many art historians, he also studied with Timoteo Viti at
Urbino, executing under his influence a number of works of miniaturelike delicacy and
poetic atmosphere, including Apollo and Marsyas and The Knight\'s Dream. In 1499 he
went to Perugia, in Umbria, and became a student and assistant of the painter Perugino.
Raphael imitated his master closely; their paintings of this period are executed in styles so
similar that art historians have found it difficult to determine which were painted by
Raphael. Among Raphael\'s independent works executed at Perugia are two large-scale
paintings, the celebrated Sposalizio, or Marriage of the Virgin, and The Crucified Christ
with the Virgin Mary, Saints and Angels.

In 1504 Raphael moved to Florence, where he studied the work of such
established painters of the time as Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Fra
Bartolommeo. At this time he made a transition from the typical style of the Umbrian
school, with its emphasis on perspective and rigidly geometrical composition, to a more
animated, informal manner of painting. His development during his Florentine period can
best be traced in his numerous Madonnas. The earliest example, still Umbrian in
inspiration, is the Madonna del Granduca. Later examples, showing the influence of
Leonardo in serenity of expression and composition, include the well-known La Belle
Jardinière and the Madonna of the Goldfinch. The last of his Madonnas executed at
Florence, the Madonna del Baldacchino, a monumental altarpiece, is similar in style to the
work of Fra Bartolommeo. Raphael\'s most important commissions during his stay in
Florence came from Umbria. His most original composition of this period is the
Entombment of Christ, an altarpiece that nevertheless shows the strong influence of
Michelangelo in the postures and anatomical development of the figures.

In 1508 Raphael was called to Rome by Pope Julius II and commissioned to
execute frescoes in four small stanze, or rooms, of the Vatican Palace. The walls of the
first room, the Stanza della Segnatura, are decorated with scenes elaborating ideas
suggested by personifications of Theology, Philosophy, Poetry, and Justice, which appear
on the ceiling. On the wall under Theology is the Disputà, representing a group discussing
the mystery of the Trinity. The famous School of Athens, on the wall beneath Philosophy,
portrays an open architectural space in which Plato, Aristotle, and other ancient
philosophers are engaged in discourse. On the wall under Poetry is the celebrated
Parnassus, in which the Greek god Apollo appears surrounded by the Muses and the great
poets. The second Vatican chamber, the Stanza d\'Eliodoro, painted with the aid of
Raphael\'s assistants, contains scenes representing the triumph of the Roman Catholic
church over its enemies.

After the death of Pope Julius II in 1513, and the accession of Leo X, Raphael\'s
influence and responsibilities increased. He was made chief architect of Saint Peter\'s
Basilica in 1514, and a year later was appointed director of all the excavations of
antiquities in and near Rome. Because of his many activities, only part of the third room of
the Vatican Palace, the Stanza del Incendio, was painted by him, and he merely provided
the designs for the fourth chamber, the Sala Constantina. During this period he also
designed ten tapestries illustrating the acts of Christ\'s apostles for the Sistine Chapel; the
cartoons, or drawings, for these are now in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
Raphael also devised the architecture and decorations of the Chigi Chapel in the Church of
Santa Maria del Popolo and the decorations of the Villa Farnesina, which include the
Triumph of Galatea.

In addition to these major undertakings, he executed a number of easel paintings,
including a Portrait of Julius II, a series of Madonnas, and the world-famous Sistine
Madonna. Other religious paintings during this period include The Transfiguration,
completed posthumously by the most notable of Raphael\'s many followers, Giulio
Romano. Raphael died in Rome on his 37th birthday, April 6, 1520.