Born: 6 April 1483
Died: 6 April 1520
Birthplace: Urbino, Duchy of Urbino (Italy)
Best known as: High Renaissance painter of The School of Athens
Raphael, like Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, is one of the most famous artists of Italy's High Renaissance and one of the greatest influences in the history of Western art. Immensely talented, he first studied with his father and then as an assistant to the great master Pietro Vannucci, known as Perugino. Raphael (also known as Raffaello Sanzio) worked in Florence (1504) and earned a reputation as a productive and much-admired painter before going to Rome sometime after 1508. In Rome he was commissioned by Pope Julius II to create the large-scale fresco The School of Athens, as well as other decorative work at the Vatican. Raphael also took over as architect of St. Peter's after the death of Donato Bramante (1514), contributed ten tapestries to the Sistine Chapel and painted some of the most prized and reproduced holy pictures of the era, including The Sistine Madonna and Transfiguration. His work is often cited for its harmony and balance of composition, and his early death (on his 37th birthday) is considered by many experts to be one of the great tragedies of art history.
Extra credit: The 19th century artists known as the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, and including poet/painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti, sought to advance the style of Italian art that preceded Raphael... Michelangelo was notoriously cranky and Raphael was famously amiable -- they did not associate with one another, even though they both worked in Rome at the same time... Raphael's famous signature, RVSM, stood for "Raphael Vrbinus Sua Mano" (Raphael of Urbino, His Hand).
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