Follow Raphael's Life and Works in Rome

Among the trinity of Renaissance painters, who is the better -- Michelangelo, DaVinci, or Raphael? That's a tough call, but many would cast their vote for Raphael. We agree. Fortunately, you can observe the core of Raphael's art in one city, Rome. There, Pope Julius II started him off on a series of papal commissions that kept the young artist occupied until he died at the young age of 37

An unforgettable day or weekend dedicated to the Master of Renaissance Painters

Among the trinity of Renaissance painters, who is the better -- Michelangelo, DaVinci, or Raphael? That's a tough call, but many would cast their vote for Raphael. We agree.

When it comes to painting, he is the first among equals; we think you will find that immersing yourself for a day or weekend in his life and work creates an enduring connection not only with his art but with the man himself. Fortunately, you can observe the core of Raphael's art in one city, Roma .
There, Pope Julius II started him off on a series of papal commissions that kept the young artist occupied until he died at the young age of 37.

First, the Art Galleries

At the Galleria Borghese (located in the beautiful park of Villa Borghese), you'll find a selection of famous paintings entitled Portrait of a Man, Portrait of a Young Woman with Unicorn, and The Entombment. In the latter, Raphael captures the grief -- agony really -- of those carrying Christ to his tomb as if it all happened just yesterday. It is, from any point of view, a masterpiece well worth seeing.

Another radiant painting, La Fornarina , the portrait of a bare-breasted woman who may have been Raphael's lover, makes it a memorable part of the Palazzo Barberini National Gallery of Ancient Art collection . There you will also find works by Bernini, Caravaggio, van Dyck, Rubens, Titian and many others.

Catching your breath after all that beauty and emotion, take a short five-minute walk from Fornarina and the National Gallery of Ancient Art to the Galleria Doria Pamphilj where you can view Raphael's double portrait of two Italian noblemen, Andrea Navagero and Agostino Beazzano. The painting is a bit odd because the two men are painted separately and not interacting. Why Raphael chose to paint them on the same canvas is the subject of debate that makes the composition that much more intriguing.
Located in a private mansion, the Galleria Doria Pamphilj hosts a remarkable collection of works by Brueghel the Elder, Velázquez, Correggio, Caravaggio, Tintoretto, and others. Curiously, it's also the breathtaking venue for comic opera! While in the area, venture into Rome's most beloved "rione" (neighborhood) and visit the Villa Farnesina in Trastevere , where Raphael painted a series of frescoes, including the Triumph of Galatea, and is said to have designed the stables.

On to Raphael's Masterpieces in the Vatican

Not surprisingly, considering his papal connections, you'll find many of Raphael's paintings in the Vatican Museums . (Always book your tickets in advance to avoid the long waiting lines!)
He was just 24 years old when he joined a team of painters from all over Italy to decorate the new papal apartments, the "Stanze." His first attempts in what was later called the Stanza della Segnatura pleased the Pope so much that he decided to entrust Raphael with decorating the entire apartment from 1509 onward.

Raphael outdid himself, painting the Disputa, the School of Athens, and the Parnassus in the Stanza della Segnatura. Also notable is the Stanza di Eliodoro, with scenes from the biblical story of Heliodorus - the dramatic Expulsion of Heliodorus from the Temple; the harmonious Mass at Bolsena, the action-filled Meeting of Leo the Great with Attila and the study of light in the Deliverance of Saint Peter.

His frescoes in the Loggia di Raffaello are extraordinary. Let us know which is your favorite. Note that the Vatican Gallery, which is part of the Vatican Museums tour, houses the Transfiguration, a signature work and also the last he painted before his death.

Raphael's Contributions to Roman Architecture

Raphael's training as an architect contributed, no doubt, to the symmetry, form, and most every aspect of his paintings. Although the Vatican kept him busy painting, he did get to practice architecture in and around Rome -- a walk in the heart of the Baroque center of the city will take you to some of his achievements. At the Chigi Chapel in Santa Maria del Popolo , Raphael was in charge of designing the structure, the mosaics of the dome, and the sculptures.

The latter were executed by Lorenzetto and completed, years later, by Bernini. In the Church of Sant'Agostino , you'll find the splendid Prophet Isaiah, a fresco full of references to the work of Michelangelo with whom he had a strained relationship. Also notable is the fresco of Sibyls and Angels in the church, Santa Maria Della Pace , a few steps from Piazza Navona. As an architect, Raphael accepted a position as Superintendent of Works in the Vatican Basilica, after having built the charming small church of Sant'Eligio degli Orefici. Another project, hailed throughout the sixteenth century, was the unfinished Villa Madama on the slopes of Monte Mario that Raphael began in 1518 on behalf of Leo X and Cardinal Giulio de' Medici. Complete your itinerary in the footsteps of Raphael in Rome by visiting his grave, in the Pantheon.

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