"Raphael was born in Urbino … to Giovanni Santi, a painter of no great excellence and yet a man of good intelligence…who directed him from birth to the art of painting. Giovanni insisted that Raphael should not be fed by a wet-nurse, but rather that his mother should continuously suckle him…."
With these words, the writer Giorgio Vasari evoked the beginnings of the life of Raphael Sanzio (or Santi) in The Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects (1550 and 1568). The affection throughout the artist’s childhood, which Vasari described, must have shaped Raphael’s temperament. He had a gracious and affable personality, which resonates in much of his art, and which gained him the patronage of popes and the friendship of humanists and leading artists.
Raphael was born at Easter time of 1483, on 6 April, according to some early sources. His premature death, aged only 37, did not preclude him from becoming one of the most influential artists and greatest storytellers of Western Art. At the heart of this success laid a supreme technical virtuosity and versatility, paired with an unrivalled visual culture.
Raphael and Drawing
Raphael’s creativity was driven by the process of drawing. Whether tentatively sketching, or moving with inspired conviction, his hand generated lines that gave shape to his pursuit of eloquent forms. By following his hand on the paper, we can witness the artist’s ideas emerging.
Raphael used drawing as a means of observation, as a mode of experimentation, and as a way of reflecting on human emotions and actions. All this is evident in a theme recurrent in his career, that of the Mother and Child. Raphael explored this universal subject, thinking (through drawing) of ways to articulate physical intimacy, and how to convey vitality, weight and character.