Raphael or Raffaello, a painter and architect of the Florentine school in the Italian High Renaissance, was born on April 6, 1483 and died on his 37th birthday, April 6, 1520 (see the note below about earlier confusion about these dates). He was also called Raffaello Sanzio, Raffaello Santi, Raffaello de Urbino or Rafael Sanzio de Urbino.

His life was described in Giorgio Vasari's Vite. Born in Urbino, he studied in Perugia under Pietro Perugino; but after moving to Florence he soon adopted the styles of Leonardo and Michelangelo.

Major works

The School of Athens

Raphael is best known for his Madonnas and Holy families and for his large frescoes in the Vatican Palace. Indeed, in 1509 he was called to Rome to decorate the Vatican Stanze (rooms), for Pope Julius II. The best known of these works are The School of Athens and the Disputation on the Blessed Sacrament, two large, arch-shaped frescoes, the first depicting the philosophers of Antiquity grouped around Plato and Aristotle and the second depicting Christian theologians grouped under Jesus.

Under Pope Leo X he was chief architect of Saint Peter's Basilica in 1514 and he was named as a sort of supervisor for Roman archaeology research.

He died on his 37th birthday in Rome (reportedly just weeks before Leo was to invest him as a cardinal), deeply lamented by all who knew his value. His body lay for a while in state in one of the rooms in which he had demonstrated his genius, and he was honoured with a public funeral. His last work, the Transfiguration, was carried before him in the funeral procession. The unrelenting hand of death (says his biographer) set a period to his labours, and deprived the world of further benefit from his talents, when he had only attained an age at which most other men are but beginning to be useful. "We see him in his cradle (said Fuseli); we hear him stammer; but propriety rocked the cradle, and character formed his lips."[1] (http://www.gutenberg.org/dirs/1/1/3/8/11387/11387-h/11387-h.htm)

He was interred in the Pantheon, the country's most honored place.

Dates of birth and death

There is often confusion about Raphael's dates. Sources variously say: (a) Raphael died on his 37th birthday; (b) he died on the eve of his 37th birthday; (c) both his dates of birth and death were Good Friday; and (d) there have been mistakes in converting from the Julian Calendar to the Gregorian Calendar. Clearly, these statements cannot all be true.

The truth seems to be as follows:

The Gregorian Calendar has no relevance to Raphael. It was not introduced until 62 years after his death, and it was not retrospective. The Julian Calendar applies to him exclusively.
Raphael was born on Sunday April 6, 1483.
He died on his 37th birthday, Good Friday April 6, 1520.

Skull of Raphael, reconstruction of the face of Raphael from the skull.

Links and references

The School of Athens: Who is Who?

The Parnassus

Artcyclopedia: Raphael (http://www.artcyclopedia.com/artists/raphael.html)

Parodies and misuses of Raphael's cherubs from the Sistine Madona (http://www.isidore-of-seville.com/angels/20.html)
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