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Raphael, the painter, not the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, was both a master Renaissance painter and a master of our hearts.

Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino, known purely as Raphael because last names are for nerds, was born on April 6, 1483 in Urbino, Italy, which, not to brag, was kind of a cultural center at the time. Raphael’s father was the court painter for the Duke of Urbino and taught him some basic painting skills and also taught him about the values of the Duke's court which were rational and humanistic, rather than religious or dogmatic. This wasn’t super helpful as a 10 year old, but came in handy later. Raphael’s mother died when he was 8 years old followed by his father when he was 11 years old. But little Raphie actually did fine as an orphan. He took over his father’s workshop and became such a talented painter that he got an apprenticeship with a painter by the name of Perugino. By the time Raphael was 17, he had earned the title of master.

Then in his 20s, Raphael did the 16th century equivalent of moving to New York. By this I mean he moved to Florence to really give his art a shot. There, he was exposed to Leonardo da Vinci, an artist that he thought of as a mentor and Michelangelo, who became his arch nemesis. While in Florence, Raphael made a series of Madonnas in a style much like da Vinci’s. Then he got the most important call of his career (letter actually because 16th century). Pope Julius II wanted Raphael to paint the Stanza della Segnatura, the private rooms in the Palace of the Vatican. This is where Raphael did his most famous frescos – The Triumph of Religion and The School of Athens. Rumor has it that he also painted something naughty in the bathroom for the pope’s…private use for his own…private reasons. (It was porn.)

Raphael was actually a pretty suave and handsome guy. His biographer, Giorgio Vasari wrote that, “Raphael was very amorous and fond of women and was always swift to serve them.” One woman in particular made him what we would call today a sex maniac. Her name was Margarita Luti, and she was a baker’s daughter. Raphael was engaged to someone else for most of his life and she was the daughter of one of his patrons so he felt obliged to marry her. But he never did because he just couldn’t get over Margarita, who was the model and muse of Raphael’s La Fornarina. His love for this woman would ultimately lead to his downfall. It’s rumored that after a night of vigorous sex, Raphael caught a fever that eventually killed him on his 37th birthday. What a way to go...



Full name was Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino, but like Madonna and Prince, everyone knows him as just "Raphael."

His dad was court painter and poet to the Duke of Urbino (when you are a Duke in Italy in the 1490’s, you get a court painter – it’s an unwritten rule). Raphael painted the frescos on the walls and ceiling of the Pope’s private library at the same time that Michelangelo painted the Sistine chapel. Raphael had a buddy with a key and they secretly snuck into the Sistine chapel to check out Michelangelo’s progress. Michelangelo later accused Raphael of plagiarism and said "everything he knew about art he got from me." Dramaaa. Michelangelo hated Raphael and spread nasty rumors about him. The two were bitter rivals.

Raphael had a talent for management and ran a huge workshop with 50 artists. Unfortunately, the workshop was destroyed and several of the artists were killed during one of the biggest clusterf**ks of all time, the Sack of Rome in 1527. Raphael himself died in a much more pleasant way, if such a thing can be said, “after a long night of sex with his mistress.” Unfortunately, that was followed by a 15 day long fever and his ultimate demise. He was only 37. He was also the only Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle who was not gay (or at least the only one who was known to have slept with women). Not that it got him anywhere good...


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The following is an excerpt from "Raphael: A Collection of Fifteen Pictures and a Portrait of the Painter with Introduction and Interpretation" by Estelle M. Hurll, published in 1899:

No one of the old Italian masters has taken such a firm hold upon the popular imagination as Raphael. Other artists wax and wane in public favor as they are praised by one generation of critics or disparaged by the next; but Raphael's name continues to stand in public estimation as that of the favorite painter in Christendom. The passing centuries do not dim his fame, though he is subjected to severe criticism; and he continues, as he began, the first love of the people.

The subjects of his pictures are nearly all of a cheerful nature. He exercised his skill for the most part on scenes which were agreeable to contemplate. Pain and ugliness were strangers to his art; he was preëminently the artist of joy. This is to be referred not only to his pleasure-loving nature, but to the great influence upon him of the rediscovery of Greek art in his day, an art which dealt distinctively with objects of delight.

Moreover Raphael is compassionate towards mind as well as heart; he requires of us neither too strenuous feeling nor too much thinking. As his subjects do not overtax the sympathies with harrowing emotions, neither does his art overtax the understanding with complicated effects. His pictures are apparently so simple that they demand no great intellectual effort and no technical education to enjoy them. He does all the work for us, and his art is too perfect to astonish. It was not his way to show what difficult things he could do, but he made it appear that great art is the easiest thing in the world. This ease was, however, the result of a splendid mastery of his art. Thus he arranges the fifty-two figures in the School of Athens, or the three figures of the Madonna of the Chair, so simply and unobtrusively that we might imagine such feats were an every-day affair. Yet in both cases he solves most difficult problems of composition with a success scarcely paralleled in the history of art.

Even the Master himself seldom achieved the same kind of success twice. His Parnassus lacks the variety of the School of Athens, though the single figures have a similar grace, and the Incendio del Borgo or Conflagration in the Borgo, with groups equal in beauty to any in the other two frescoes, has not the unity of either. Again, while the Parnassus and the Liberation of Peter show a masterly adaptation to extremely awkward spaces, the Transfiguration fails to solve a much easier problem of composition.

Preferring by an instinct such as the Greek artist possessed, the statuesque effects of repose to the portrayal of action, Raphael showed himself capable of both. The Hellenic calm of Parnassus is not more impressive than the splendid charge of the avenging spirits upon Heliodorus; the visionary idealism of the angel-led Peter is matched by the vigorous realism of Peter called from his fishing to the apostleship; the brooding quiet of maternity expressed in the Madonna of the Chair has a perfect complement in the alert activity of the swiftly moving Sistine Madonna.

Great as was Raphael's achievement in many directions, he is remembered above all else as a painter of Madonnas. Here was the subject best expressing the individuality of his genius. From the beginning to the end of his career the sweet mystery of motherhood never ceased to fascinate him. Again and again he sounded the depths of maternal experience, always making some new discovery.

The Madonna of the Chair emphasizes most prominently, perhaps, the physical instincts of maternity. "She bends over the child," says Taine, "with the beautiful action of a wild animal." Like a mother creature instinctively protecting her young, she gathers him in her capacious embrace as if to shield him from some impending danger. The Sistine Madonna, on the other hand, is the most spiritual of Raphael's creations, the perfect embodiment of ideal womanhood. The mother's love is here transfigured by the spirit of sacrifice. Forgetful of self, and obedient to the heavenly summons, she bears her son forth to the service of humanity.

Sister spirits of the Madonnas, and hardly second in delicate loveliness, are the virgin saints of Raphael; the Catherine, the Cecilia, the Magdalene, and the Barbara are abiding ideals in our dreams of fair women.

The same sweetness of nature which prompted Raphael's fondness for lovely women and happy children shows itself also in his delineation of angels. The archangel Michael, the angel visitors of Abraham, and the celestial spirits appearing to Heliodorus all follow closely upon the Madonnas in the purity and serenity of their beauty. In the same fellowship also belongs the beautiful youth in the crowd at Lystra, who is as sharply contrasted with his surroundings as if he were a denizen of another sphere. The ideal is again repeated in the St. John of the Cecilia altar-piece, whose uplifted face has a sweetness which is not so much feminine as celestial. The angel of Peter's deliverance is less successful than the artist's other angel types. The head seems too small for the splendidly vigorous body, and the face lacks somewhat of strength.

If Raphael's favorite ideals were drawn from youth and womanhood, it was not because he did not understand the purely masculine. The Æneas of the Borgo fresco, the Paul of the Cecilia altar-piece, and the Sixtus of the Sistine Madonna show, in three ages, what is best and most distinctive in ideal manhood.

Raphael's type of beauty is not such as calls forth immediate or extravagant admiration: it is satisfying rather than amazing, and its qualities dawn slowly though steadily upon the imagination. Raphael holds always to the golden mean; no exaggerated note jars upon the perfection of his harmonies. For this reason his pictures never grow tiresome. They stand the test of daily companionship and grow ever lovelier through familiarity.

Without forcing the parallel, we may say that something of the same spirit which animated the work of Raphael reappears in the familiar poetry of Longfellow. The one artist had an eye for beautiful line, the other had an ear for melodious verse, and both alike shunned whatever was inharmonious, always seeking grace and symmetry. Their subjects were, indeed, of dissimilar range. Raphael, impressed by the scholarship of his time, chose themes which were larger and more related to the experience of the world, while Longfellow was never very far removed from the golden milestone of domestic life. Yet in diverse subjects both turned instinctively to aspects of womanhood, to what was refined and gently emotional, and turned away from the violent and revolutionary.


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Here is what Wikipedia says about Raphael

Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino (

Italian: [raffaˈɛllo ˈsantsjo da urˈbiːno]; March 28 or April 6, 1483 – April 6, 1520), now generally known in English as Raphael (
UK: /ˈræf.əl/
US: /ˈræfi.əl, ˈrfi-, ˌrɑːfˈɛl/
RAF-ee-əl, RAY-fee-, RAH-fy-EL), was an Italian painter and architect of the High Renaissance. His work is admired for its clarity of form, ease of composition, and visual achievement of the Neoplatonic ideal of human grandeur. Together with Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo, he forms the traditional trinity of great masters of that period.

His father was court painter to the ruler of the small but highly cultured city of Urbino. He died when Raphael was eleven, and Raphael seems to have played a role in managing the family workshop from this point. He trained in the workshop of Perugino, and was described as a fully trained "master" by 1500. He worked in or for several cities in north Italy until in 1508 he moved to Rome at the invitation of Pope Julius II, to work on the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican. He was given a series of important commissions there and elsewhere in the city, and began to work as an architect. He was still at the height of his powers at his death in 1520.

Raphael was enormously productive, running an unusually large workshop and, despite his early death at 37, leaving a large body of work. His career falls naturally into three phases and three styles, first described by Giorgio Vasari: his early years in Umbria, then a period of about four years (1504–1508) absorbing the artistic traditions of Florence, followed by his last hectic and triumphant twelve years in Rome, working for two popes and their close associates. Many of his works are found in the Vatican Palace, where the frescoed Raphael Rooms were the central, and the largest, work of his career. The best known work is The School of Athens in the Vatican Stanza della Segnatura. After his early years in Rome, much of his work was executed by his workshop from his drawings, with considerable loss of quality. He was extremely influential in his lifetime, though outside Rome his work was mostly known from his collaborative printmaking.

Raphael, The School of Athens

Raphael, Cardinal and Theological Virtues, 1511

After his death, the influence of his great rival Michelangelo was more widespread until the 18th and 19th centuries, when Raphael's more serene and harmonious qualities were again regarded as the highest models. Thanks to the influence of art historian Johann Joachim Winckelmann his work became a formative influence on Neoclassical painting, but his techniques would later be explicitly and emphatically rejected by groups such as the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.

Check out the full Wikipedia article about Raphael

Comments (6)


I came here for the mutant ninja turtle, but I stayed for the art! Hey!

pogo agogo

Birthday twins!!


damn by the time I was 17 i only earned the title of beer pong champion




Francisco, how can you compare Raphael to Madonna Louise Ciccone? Raphael was better looking and more creative.

spurklin targedash

Also, Madonna made it past 37. And 47. and 57.