J. Addington Symonds calls Raphael one of the four archangels of painting calls him the Phoeban singer to whom the Renaissance reveals her joy and dowers with her melody. He is not deep, and impenetrable, like Leonardo ; he does not overwhelm, like Michelangelo ; he does not intoxicate, like Correggio ; he does not possess the magic of Titian, the pomp of Veronese or Tintoretto, the brilliancy of Rubens or Murillo ; but in his manner of telling a story, in his grasp of subject, his Elysian grace, in the power of divining his subject, in the power to explain, to embellish, to supply its deficiencies, and over all to throw the mantle of transcendent beauty, no painter, living or dead, has ever surpassed him.
Raffaello Santi was born in the mountain city of Urbino, on Good Friday, 1483.
Raphael’s father, Giovanni Santi, an artist of some merit, soon recognized the talent of his boy, and said, “I cannot long be his teacher.” When Raphael was fourteen his father died, and he was sent to Perugia to study under Perugino, the chief master of the Umbrian school. When the young Raphael came here it was the last of Perugia’s great days. She was a proud, rampant hill city, with her trophies on her outer walls, and her streets often bloody from the disputes of her own lords. Yet out of this intense life came this flower of beauty, Umbrian art, an expression of celestial grace and princely breeding.
In 1508, Pope Julius II. called Raphael to Rome, where he remained until his death. After the death of Julius, Raphael was under the patronage of Pope Leo X.
Raphael had a most lovable personality. He could never walk the streets of Rome, it is said, without a crowd of attendant pupils and friends, eagerly listening to his every word.
He grew rich and famous. He could have married Maria Bibbiena, a niece of Cardinal Bibbiena. The honor, and importance of an alliance like this, we today can hardly understand. In Raphael’s day, Rome was the capital of the civilized world. The Cardinals, Princes of the Church, took precedence over Princes of the blood, and the Pope made and unmade kings.
In just thirty-seven years this brilliant, beautiful life was ended. After nearly five centuries of animated discussion and of frequent revolt, which have taken place in every sect who worship at the shrine of art, Raphael, calm and serene, has ever occupied the throne of painting, and no other artist, whether fellow countryman or foreigner, whether bearing the name of Titian, Rubens, Rembrandt, Murillo or another, has ever disputed his legitimate empire.
( Originally Published 1912 )
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