Fresco in Rome done by Raphael

Through the Artist’s Eye: Raphael’s Art in Rome

Rome has a lifetime’s worth of art to admire and marvel at. It is the seat of the High Renaissance. It is where the greats like Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci worked and inspired a whole generation of artists, leaving behind a rich and unparalleled legacy for the world to treasure. With the best Vatican city tours you can learn about the famed paintings and the exquisite architectures of the Eternal City.

When recalling the Renaissance masters of Rome, it is imperative to study and revisit another ubiquitously known personality, Raphael.

Renowned painter and architect of the High Renaissance as he was, he is held in high regard. Raphael is often mentioned along with Michelangelo and Da Vinci, thus forming the famous trinity of the Italian Renaissance.

This year is the 500th anniversary of Raphael’s death and there’s no better way to commemorate the historic event than by perusing his artistic feats with Vatican Tours. In the meantime, let’s have a look at the man’s life here.

Who was Raphael?

Born in 1483, in central Italy’s Urbino, Raphael lived a short but artistically fulfilling life. Sadly, a fatal fever consumed him at the tender age of 37, but his prolific career as a gifted painter and an architect lives on despite his short life.

His work is celebrated for its awe-inspiring clarity of form and beauty, especially in his depiction of human beings. In 1508 he moved to Rome, where he eventually died, making the city home to his best works.

The Vatican Museum

The ‘Four Raphael Rooms’ in the Leonine Papal chambers of the Vatican Museum have frescoes that were crafted by Raphael, and students of his, for almost a decade long period.

The first room, painted between 1508 and 1511, houses the iconic ‘School of Athens’ painting as part of the Stanza dellaSegnatura. The third room has a painting which depicts the massive Borgo fire of 847 AD.

The Vatican Picture Gallery

Despite a large number of artworks on display at the gallery, Raphael’s work easily stands out in form and brilliance.

In Room VIII, three of his masterpieces are on display, namely the ‘Coronation of the Virgin’, ‘Madonna of Foligno’ and the ‘Transfiguration’. The last painting was not finished before the painter’s death, and it was positioned at the head of Raphael’s funeral procession. It is undeniably one of his greatest works depicting Jesus’ ascent to heaven.

Villa Farnesina

This 16th-century private apartment built in Trastevere is adorned with frescoes by several painters including Raphael.

The ‘Loggia of Galatea’ depicts cupids with arrows and the ‘Loggia of Cupid and Psyche’ is an artistic depiction of the mythological lovers whose image was largely used for nuptial celebrations in the 15th century.

Villa Barberini

Here you can find the portrait of Raphael’s lover ‘La Fornarina’, or the baker’s daughter identified as Margherita Luti. The painting was a matter of great discussion and debate during his time: it is a portrait of a bare-chested Luti with the painter’s signature on her armband.

The Borghese Gallery

This gallery houses three of Raphael’s paintings, including the iconic ‘Deposition of Christ’ depicting the entombment of God’s son. The artwork, composed of oil paint on a wooden board, is a striking piece in the gallery which also houses works by Bernini and Caravaggio.

Church of San Agostino

The third pillar of the church displays Raphael’s painting of the Prophet Isaiah completed in 1512. It bears influences of Michelangelo’s style of painting.

Church of Saint Mary of the Peace

The church, a stone’s throw from Piazza Navona, houses Raphael’s beautiful 1514 fresco of ‘The Sybils’, depicting the Sybils getting instructions from Angels. The painting was part of a series commissioned by a banker.

Raphael was a prolific artist, evident from this list. The year 2020 marks 500 years since his death, a year which will help resuscitate interest in his works, with art shows scheduled the world over. In Rome, the Scuderie del Quirinale will host a massive exhibition on the artist’s works this year. So, if you happen to be on a Vatican & Colosseum tour, do not forget to pay homage to the great artist.