Raphael Sanzio Artwork and Biography

Amanda Ferguson, Amy Troolin
  • Author
    Amanda Ferguson

    Amanda has taught middle and high school social studies subjects for several years. She has a Master of Arts in Teaching degree, with specialization in Secondary Social Studies Education, as well as a Bachelor's in Psychology.

  • Instructor
    Amy Troolin

    Amy has MA degrees in History, English, and Theology. She has taught college English and religious education classes and currently works as a freelance writer.

Who is Raphael? How did he die? Read about Raphael's early life, education, and career. See a list of his famous works of art, and learn about his significance. Updated: 10/25/2021

Table of Contents


Raphael Sanzio: Overview

Raphael Sanzio was an esteemed Italian High-Renaissance artist specializing in painting and architecture. He was simply known as "Raphael," and lived from 1483-1520 C.E. Raphael gained quite a reputation for his classist-style Renaissance works throughout modern-day Italy and the Vatican. He is best remembered for his multiple "Madonna" painting depictions, as well as his work within Vatican City. Raphael is known as one of the prime trios or "trio of masters" of Renaissance art, which is also thought to include Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. Both aforementioned artists influenced him, and he himself influenced many during and after his life.

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Raphael: Biography

Raphael was born on April 6, 1483, in Urbino, Italy, during the High Renaissance period. Urbino was considered a cultural hub and encourager of the arts at the time. The Renaissance, or "rebirth" of classical humanist art, philosophy, science, literature, and more, dominated Italy (and spread throughout Europe) from the 14th-16th centuries C.E. And, the term "High-Renaissance" refers to the mid-point and height of the Renaissance period or era. Also, it represents the most exceptional period for the production of Renaissance art. Thus, Raphael, da Vinci, and Michelangelo are all considered High-Renaissance artists.

Young Raphael learned Renaissance-style humanism from an early age due to his upbringing as an artist's son. He went on to live in multiple Italian cities, completing wondrous commissions for well-known patrons. As a result, Raphael gained quite a reputation at a relatively young age and became a sought-after artist during his lifetime.

By 1514, he was engaged to Maria Bibbiena, Cardinal Bernardo Dovizi Bibbiena's niece, via some arrangement. However, Maria died in 1520 due to unknown circumstances, and Raphael was known to have been in love with a baker's daughter — Margherita Luti. Luti was believed to have been Raphael's mistress and model, and many thought she was the great love of his lifetime. Historical records indicate rumors that the two were actually married in secret, but this remains unconfirmed. However, in Raphael's will, he asked to be buried next to Maria.

Raphael died at the young age of 37, but he is remembered as one of the best and most influential Renaissance artists. His art can still be viewed today throughout various locations in Italy and museums throughout the world.

Early Life and Family

Raphael was born to a relatively wealthy merchant family in Urbino. His father was Giovanni Santi/Giovanni Santi di Pietro, an artist and painter for the Duke of Urbino; he headed a well-known studio and workshop in the city. Giovanni taught the young Raphael basic painting techniques and influenced him in the ways and ideas of humanist philosophy by taking him to the Court of Urbino. Raphael's mother, Magia di Battista di Nicola Ciarla, died when he was only 8 or 9 years old, and then his father died when he was 11. After his father's death, Raphael's uncle, Giovanni's brother, helped raise him. Both Raphael's uncle and stepmother, Bernardina, helped him manage his father's workshop. He developed notable talent very quickly while still in Urbino and was even believed to have surpassed his father's skill.

As a teenager, Raphael received an invitation from artist Pietro Vannunci, also known as Perugino, to work as his assistant in Perugia (Umbria region in central Italy). While in Perugia, Raphael practiced techniques of High Renaissance art and worked under Perugino for about four years. During this time, he received his first commissions and painted many frescoes, including work at the Collegio del Cambia, honing in on his own unique style and gaining greater recognition.



Raphael was truly a product of the High Renaissance due to his education, experiences, and influences. As previously mentioned, the young Raphael was sometimes taken to the Court of Urbino, where he was educated in the ways of humanist philosophy. After his father's death, he is said to have received some training from Urbino court painter Timoteo Viti. Raphael also learned and was inspired by many Renaissance artists, including Perugino, Leonardo da Vinci, Fra Bartolommeo, Michelangelo, and Masaccio. The aforementioned artists helped Raphael learn how to include greater depth, detail, style, expression, and more in his works. His works are said to bear a very close stylistic resemblance, especially retaining the clear, bright light quality, to his early master Perugino.


Due to his ability to paint harmonious figures with ease and clarity, Raphael distinguished himself as an artist and grew to know much success. According to Giorgio Vasari, who was also an artist and historian of the time, Raphael became a full-on master painter by 1500. Much of what is known about Raphael comes from the writings and accounts of Vasari.

Key dates from Raphael's artistic career:

  • Circa 1495-1504: an internship in Perugia/Umbria, under the direction of Perugino. Raphael's first commission was recorded by 1500 as an altarpiece for Andrea Baronci's chapel in the Church of St Agostino in Città di Castello by Urbino. Many more commissions followed, including work on other altarpieces.
  • 1504: very brief time in Siena for work
  • 1504-1508: Raphael moved to Florence to learn from the many other Renaissance artists there, including da Vinci; Florence was the art center of the Renaissance. Raphael's work took on a more complex yet tranquil quality during this period.
  • 1508: invited to Rome by Pope Julius II to work on the pope's private library room in the Vatican Palace. He completed many other rooms and commissions at the Vatican; Raphael lived in Rome for the rest of his life.
  • 1514-1520: Raphael was appointed and commissioned for various architectural work in Rome; he also continued his painting work.

Late Career

Raphael's late-career included the great works of art and architectural design he contributed to Rome and the Vatican. First invited by Pope Julius II, Raphael was asked to commission fresco paintings in the pope's private library. This work would lead to many others within the Vatican and throughout Rome. Michelangelo began his work on the Sistine Chapel ceiling at the same time that Raphael worked on the pope's rooms. The two artists are depicted as somewhat of enemies, evident in Michelangelo's and Vasari's writings. However, it is said that Raphael was influenced a great deal by Michelangelo.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Where are Raphael's most famous paintings?

Raphael's works of art can be found in various museums throughout the world. However, his most famous works can be viewed at the Vatican.

What did Raphael contribute to the Renaissance?

Raphael contributed many high-quality works of art, including painting and architectural designs, to the Renaissance. He used Renaissance ideals within his art, furthering the movement in Italy and beyond.

What was Raphael's style of painting?

Raphael's style of painting was very much a product of the High-Renaissance period. His style included the use of classist, humanist, and realist themes. Raphael used bright light in his works and was thought to have painted with great clarity and detail.

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