paintings of the Madonna and Child. On the death of his father in 1494 Raphael was left in the care of his stepmother (his own mother, Magia Ciarla, having died in 1491) and of his uncle, a priest called Bartolomeo.
First or Perugian Period.-In what year Raphael was apprenticed to Perugino and how the interval before that was spent are matters of doubt. Vasari’s statement that he was sent to Perugia during his father’s lifetime is certainly a mistake. On the whole it appears most probable that he did not enter Perugino’s studio till the end of 1499, as during the four or five years before that Perugino was mostly absent from his native city. The so-called Sketch Book of Raphael in the academy of Venice contains studies apparently from the cartoons of some of Perugino’s Sistine frescoes, possibly done as practice in drawing.
This celebrated collection of thirty drawings, now framed or preserve din portfolios, bears signs of having once formed a bound book, and has been supposed to be a sketch-book filled by Raphael during his Perugian apprenticeship. Many points, however, make this tempting hypothesis very improbable; the fact that the drawings were not all originally on leaves of the same size, and the miscellaneous character of the sketches-varying much both in style and merit of execution-seem to show that it is a collection of studies by different hands, made and bound together by some subsequent owner, and may contain but very few drawings by Raphael himself.
Before long Raphael appears to have been admitted to share in the execution of paintings by his master; and his touch can with more or less certainty be traced in some of Perugino’s panels which were executed about 1502. Many of those who, like Crowe and Cavalcaselle, adopt the earlier date of Raphael’s apprenticeship, believe that his hand is visible in the execution of the beautiful series of frescoes by Perugino in the Sala del Cambio, dated 1500; as does also M. Mtintz in his excellent Raphaël, sa vie, Paris, 1881, in spite of his accepting the end of 1499 as the period of Raphael’s first entering Perugino’s studio, —two statements almost impossible to reconcile. Considering that Raphael was barely seventeen when these frescoes were painted, it is hardly reasonable to attribute the finest heads to his hand; nor did he at an early age master the difficulties of fresco buono. The Resurrection of Christ in the Vatican and the Diotalevi Madonna in the Berlin Museum are the principal pictures by Perugino in parts of which the touch of Raphael appears to be visible, though any real certainty on this point is unattainable.
About 1502 Raphael began to execute independent works; four pictures for churches at Città di Castello were probably the earliest of these, and appear to have been painted in the years 1502–4. The first is a gild-banner painted on one side with the Trinity, and below, kneeling figures of S. Sebastian and S. Rocco; on the reverse is a Creation of Eve, very like Perugino in style, but possessing more grace and breadth of treatment. These are still in the church of S. Trinità. Also for Città di Castello were the coronation of S. Niccolo Tolentino, now destroyed, though studies for it exist at Oxford and Lille (Gaz. d. B. Arts, 1878, i. p. 48), and the Crucifixion, now in the Dudley collection, painted for the church of S. Domenico, and signed RAPHAEL VRBINAS P. It is a panel 8 ft.6 in. high by 5 ft. 5 in. wide, and contains noble figures of the Virgin, St John, St Jerome and St Mary Magdalene. The fourth painting executed for this town, for the church of S. Francesco, is the exquisitely beautiful and highly finished Sposalizio, now in the Brera at Milan, signed and dated RAPHAEL VRBINAS MDIIII. This is closely copied both in composition and detail from Perugino’s painting of the same subject now at Caen, but is far superior to it in sweetness of expression and grace of attitude. The Temple of Jerusalem, a domed octagon with outer ambulatory in Perugino’s picture, is reproduced with slight alterations by Raphael, and the attitudes and grouping of the figures are almost exactly the same in both. The Connestabile Madonna is one of Raphael’s finest works, painted during his Perugian period; it is a round panel; the motive, the Virgin reading a book of hours, is a favourite one with him, as it was with his father Giovanni. This lovely picture was lost to Perugia in 1871, when Count Connestabile sold it to the emperor of Russia for £13,200.
Second or Florentine Period, 1504-1508.— From 1504 to 1508 Raphael’s life was very stirring and active. In the first half of 1504 he visited Urbino, where he painted two small panels for Duke Guidobaldo, the St George and the St Michael of the Louvre. His first and for him momentous visit to Florence was made towards the end of 1504, when he presented himself with a warm letter of recommendation from patroness Joanna della Rovere to the gonfaloniere Pier Soderini. In Florence Raphael was kindly received, and, in spite of his youth (being barely of age), was welcomed as an equal by the majority of those great artists who at that time had raised Florence to a pitch of artistic celebrity far above all other cities of the world. At the time of his arrival the whole of artistic Italy was being excited to enthusiasm by the cartoons of the battle of Anghiari and the war with Pisa, on which Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo were then devoting their utmost energies. To describe the various influences under which Raphael came, and the many sources, from which he drank in stores of artistic knowledge, would be to give a complete history of Florentine art in the 15th century. With astonishing rapidity he shook off the mannerisms of Perugino, and put one great artist after another under contribution for some special power of drawing, beauty of colour, or grace of composition in which each happened to excel. Nor was it from painters only that Raphael acquired his enlarged held of knowledge and rapidly growing powers. Sculptors like Ghiberti and Donatello must be numbered among those whose works helped to develop his new-born style. The Carmine frescoes of Masaccio and Masolino taught this eager student long-remembered lessons of methods of dramatic expression. Among his contemporaries it was especially Signorelli and Michelangelo who taught him the importance of precision of line and the necessity of a thorough knowledge of the human form. From da Vinci he learnt subtleties of modelling and soft beauty of expression, from Fra Bartolommeo nobility of composition and skilful treatment of drapery in dignified folds. The friendship between Raphael and the last of these was very close and lasted for many years. The architect Baccio d’Agnolo was another of his special friends, at whose house the young painter enjoyed social intercourse
- The administration of Giovanni Santi’s will occasioned many painful family disputes and even appeals to law; see Pungileoni, El. Stor. di Rafaello.
- Crowe and Cavalcaselle (Life of Raphael, vol. i., London, 1882) adopt the notion that Raphael went to Perugia in 1495, but the reasons with which they support this view appear insufficient.
- See an excellent critical examination of the Sketch Book by Morelli, Italian Masters in German Galleries, translated by Mrs Richter (London, 1882); according to Morelli, only two drawings are by Raphael. Schmarsow, “Raphael’s Skizzenbuch in Venedig,” in Preussische Jahrbücher, xlviii. pp. 122-149 (Berlin, 1881), takes the opposite view. But Kahl, Das 'oenezianische Skizzenbuch (Leipzig, 1882), follows Morelli’s opinion, which has been generally adopted.
- Parts of Perugino’s beautiful triptych of the Madonna, with the archangels Raphael and Michael, painted for the Certosa near Pavia and now in the National Gallery of London, have been attributed to Raphael, but with little reason. Perugino’s grand altar-piece at Florence of the Assumption of the Virgin shows that he was quite capable of painting figures equal in beaut and delicacy to the St Michael of the Certosa triptych. See Frizzioni, L’Arte Italiana nella Gal. Nat. di Londra (Florence, 1880).
- For an account of processional banners painted by distinguished artists, see Mariotti, Lettere pittoriche Perugine, p. 76 seq.
- This letter, which still exists, was sold in Paris in 1856, and is now in private hands.
- See Minghetti, “I Maestri di Raffaello,” in the Nuova Antologia, 1st August 1881.
- See his sketch of St George and the Dragon, in the Uffizi, largely taken from Donatello’s pedestal relief outside Or San Michele.
- See his cartoon of St Paul preaching at Athens (Victoria and Albert Museum).
- See many of his life-studies, especially the one he sent to Albert Dürer, now at Vienna.
- See the portrait of Maddalena Doni in the Pitti.
- See the Madonna del Baldacchino in the Pitti.