RAPHAEL (1483-1520) AN OUTSTANDING RENAISSANCE PAINTER WHO FOR MOST OF HIS LIFE WAS EMPLOYED BY SUCCESSIVE POPES IN THE VATICAN. WITHOUT THE INFLUENCE OF MICHELANGELO BUONARROTI AND LEONARDO DA VINCI HIS ART WOULD HAVE BEEN COMPLETELY DIFFERENT:PART 1

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In this article on Raphael I will be exploring his religious pictures , Frescoes and Portraiture which he was so famous for. I will argue that both Michelangelo and Leonardo were great influences on his art and without them his art might have been different in all so many ways. His employment by popes was not new , Michelangelo was employed by Sixtus 1vth.

Manfred Wundrum in his survey of Raphael’s art gives a brief biographical sketch of Raphael. ” For the twenty brief years of his artistic career Raphael whose work may be seen as the embodiment of the ideals of the High Renaissance trod a path which took him with an absolute inner logic through a succession of entirely different landscapes”.[1].

” Having carried  the High Renaissance to its supreme peak and defined it for all time in his fresco for the Stanza della signature in the Vatican”.[2].

Wundrum shows how talented a painter Raphael was by balancing plane and space to create three dimensional art.

“The previously equal balance between plane and space is now tipped in favour of the third dimension. The movement from foreground to the background is accelerated by rapid switches between light and shade whereby the harmony of line and colour simultaneously begins to yield the painterly effect”.[3].

“Raphael’s journey culminated both logically in his last work the transfiguration .The balanced weighting of the school of Athens gives way to asymmetrical arrangement while highly dynamic gestures and movements create a new form of unity which the spectator must actively assimilate”.[4].

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Wundrum shows that Raphael was placed between the High Renaissance and Mannerism which many Renaissance painters sought to emulate.

” Raphael crossed the border between  High renaissance and mannerism as demonstrated in the large panel paintings of his late period Sistine Madonna , pope Leo x and Luigi de Rossi and Guilio de Medici and Luigi de Rossi and the Transfiguration”. [5].

” Raphael’s last work (the Transfiguration) is a summation of his entire artistic development and at the same time heralds the dawn of a new age. In the top half of the picture the transfigured Christ appears between the prophet Moses and Elijah above the rocky summit of Mt Tabor”.[6].

Discussing the transfiguration Wundrum asserts that there is a connection between the risen beings and ordinary mortals.

” Raphael nevertheless succeeds in establishing a visual connection between the two halves”. [7].

Linda Murray the noted Renaissance art critic provides a useful discussion of the School of Athens. This is very much a fresco influenced by both Aristolean and Platonic imagery. It takes us back to the imagery and the so called foundation of Western Philosophy which is embued with subjective Idealism. Missing from the picture are the great Atomists like Democritus and Anaxander great scientific brains.

Raphael of course brought up on Platonic Philosophy would not include the early materialists but nevertheless it does show the spirit of knowledge and learning in Greece at that time.

” In Raphael’s School of Athens the opposite wall is dedicated to philosophy represented by what is known as the School of Athens. it is the key to the composition in that the much steeper flight allows Raphael to compose his groups of philosophers so that they flow into as well as cross the picture space”. [8].

Murray in discussing Parnassus shows an easier representation for Raphael.

” Parnassus represented less straight forward problems. Raphael has constructed a complicated composition around it. Perhaps the most beautiful part of the theme is the roundel of poetry in the ceiling”. [9].

” The unity prevailing in the School of Athens is patent.  That which governs the expulsion of Helidorous is of a more subtle kind”. [10].

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Raphael showed that he was adept with oils and could paint both Religious and secular pictures. Continuing the Story of Helidorous and how he was expelled is retold in certain religious works as Murray recounts.

” The story is taken from 11. Macabees which tells how Helidorous was sent to rob the temple at Jerusalem of treasure which in included monies held in trust for widows and orphans and how at the prayer for the High priest Onias a heavenly Horseman and two angel warriors appeared and fell upon him, so that he was now defeated in his wicked purpose”.[11].

” In his art his ability was uncontested , his knowledge and understanding of antiquity deep and universally accepted by Humanists and Scholars”.[12].

This is an oversimplification by Murray as all great artists including Michelangelo and Leonardo also had this ability. There is a painting  of Raphael visiting Leonardo’s workshop or Atelier to see how the great master worked , no doubt to learn how to copy some of his great works.

” Raphael needed all these things through the greatness of many single works ,The stanza, the Sistine Madonna ,The portrait of Castiglione”.[13].

Murray referring to Raphael’s greatness continues her commentary of him.

” Raphael is supreme because he faced the problems he had to solve. He is the most deliberately intelligent of painters and he understood his own strengths and weaknesses”.[14].

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Finally Murray concurs with me that Raphael was influenced by Leonardo in her next comment on Raphael.

” He could still acknowledge a debt to Leonardo. It is perhaps pertinent to remember that Leonardo himself was possibly at this moment still resident in the Vatican”.[15].

As I have shown with the Young Raphael entering the atelier of Leonardo it is obvious that he was influenced by Da Vinci.

” Raphael’s only considerable change is to substitute plain background for Leonardo’s fantastic landscape”.[16].

Murray shows in his Madonna pictures that Raphael was still a great innovator and experimenter.

” During the years when he was working on the Stanza Raphael continued to experiment with the Madonna and child theme”. [17].

Murray in describing Raphael’s attraction to Mannerism shows in what way Mannerism appealed to him. ” In general Raphael’s Roman Madonna’s follow the new forms dictated by 16th century theories on decorum , timeless draperies envelop the mother of God”. [18].

This concludes my first part into the importance of Raphael in Renaissance Painting. He was limited to a degree in that being employed by successive popes he was restricted to the kind of pictures he painted. The same could not be said of the great Master Titian. In my second part I will conclude my discussion of Raphael as an important Painter who depicted Religious and secular scenes.

FOOTNOTES

  1. RENAISSANCE MANFRED WUNDRUM TASCHEN BOOKS PG. 19
  2. DITTO PG.19
  3. DITTO PG.19
  4. DITTO PG.19
  5. DITTO PG. 64
  6. DITTO PG.64
  7. DITTO PG.64
  8. THE HIGH RENAISSANCE AND MANNERISM. LINDA MURRAY PG.40
  9. DITTO PG.42
  10. DITTO PG.43
  11. DITTO PG.43
  12. DITTO PG .57
  13. DITTO  PG.57
  14. DITTO  PG.58
  15. DITTO PG.58
  16. DITTO PG .59
  17. DITTO PG.59
  18. DITTO PG.59

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2 thoughts on “RAPHAEL (1483-1520) AN OUTSTANDING RENAISSANCE PAINTER WHO FOR MOST OF HIS LIFE WAS EMPLOYED BY SUCCESSIVE POPES IN THE VATICAN. WITHOUT THE INFLUENCE OF MICHELANGELO BUONARROTI AND LEONARDO DA VINCI HIS ART WOULD HAVE BEEN COMPLETELY DIFFERENT:PART 1”

  1. Great job Laurence! That School of Athens piece is really remarkable. It’s funny too because I think I looked like Raphael when I was about 20. I wonder if my Venetian lineage has something to do with that?

    In any case, thank you for another such professional installment of art criticism.

    –Paul

    Liked by 1 person

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