Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino (1483–1520), known simply as Raphael, was an Italian painter and architect whose work helped to define the High Renaissance period. Raphael was immensely popular in the papal court, and his style remained influential in Europe until the mid-nineteenth century. Raphael, Michelangelo, and Leonardo da Vinci comprise the trinity of great masters of the High Renaissance period\n\nRaphael had a short life and a prolific career that helped to define an era of art history.\n\n- __Early years__: Raphael was born in April 1483, the son of Giovanni Santi, a court painter to the Duke of Urbino. Orphaned at 11, Raphael took over his father’s workshop at the court of Urbino and was recognized for his talents. Around 1495, Raphael joined Pietro Perugino’s workshop in Perugia. By 1500, Raphael was already known as a master. Drawn by the work of Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael went to Florence, where he produced a series of Madonnas. \n- __Papal court__: In 1508, 25-year-old Raphael was invited to Rome by Pope Julius II, who commissioned him to decorate the papal apartments with frescoes. (After Julius’ death in 1520, Raphael continued commissions for Pope Leo X.) In 1512, Raphael began to take on architectural projects, including the rebuilding of St. Peter’s Basilica. Unfortunately, little of his architecture survives, which is why Raphael is better known as a painter. \n- __Engagement__: In 1514, Raphael became engaged to Maria Bibbiena, the niece of Cardinal Medici Bibbiena, but they never married, and she died in 1520. One theory as to the prolonged engagement is that Raphael was already secretly married—to Margherita Luti, the model for his *La fornarina* (1518–19). \n- __Early death__: Raphael spent the rest of his life in Rome, painting portraits and Christian scenes and designing tapestries for the Sistine Chapel, until his early death in 1520 at the age of 37.\nAlthough Michelangelo’s mastery of painting the human body originally served as an inspiration for Raphael, the two eventually became rivals. As Raphael became known throughout Italy, he found himself competing against Michelangelo for a limited number of commissions from wealthy patrons—including the pope. \n\nRaphael’s work tended to be calmer and less powerful than Michelangelo’s, which gave him a broader appeal. Michelangelo publicly derided Raphael when the latter won the commission to paint the papal apartments, and in retaliation, Raphael painted Michelangelo as the notoriously grumpy Heraclitus in *The School of Athens*. After Raphael’s death, Michelangelo accused Raphael of stealing his style. According to art historians, Raphael actually drew more inspiration from Leonardo da Vinci—especially his use of sfumato\nRaphael’s paintings are marked by clarity of lines, balance of composition and color, and harmonious subjects, and they rely on three specific techniques:\n\n1. __Pyramidal composition__: This technique, which Raphael learned in Florence, places figures in the shape of a pyramid to create a sense of balance and stability in the image.\n2. __Neoplatonic figures__: Raphael painted subjects with serene, round faces that appear both human and divine.\n3. __Sfumato__: This shading technique softens tones to create the appearance of an image receding out of focus.\nThese three paintings are Raphael’s best-known works, and they showcase the evolution of his short but prolific career:\n\n1. __*The Marriage of the Virgin* (1504)__: Considered Raphael’s first great work, this panel from the Church of San Francesco in Città di Castello, Perugia, incorporates a relationship between figures and architecture, something Raphael learned from Perugino’s work.\n2. __*The School of Athens* (1508–1511)__: This fresco in the Vatican Stanza della Segnatura was commissioned by Pope Julius II. One of the most famous works of the Renaissance, it depicts Plato and Aristotle surrounded by ancient Greek philosophers.\n3. __*Portrait of Baldassare Castiglione* (1514–1515)__: This portrait of Raphael’s friend is considered one of his best. It features classic Renaissance pyramidal composition.\nGrab the [MasterClass Annual Membership](https://www.masterclass.com) and plumb the depths of your creativity with the help of modern artist Jeff Koons, abstract artist Futura, and stage designer Es Devlin. Our exclusive video lessons will teach you to do things like utilize color and scale, explore the beauty in everyday objects, and so much more.\nKnown for large-scale frescoes and portraits of the Madonna, Raphael shaped the High Renaissance period.