Saturday, 2 January 2010


“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” - Confucius

This was the last day of the holidays for me, tomorrow bright and early it’s back to work! Another day today taking it easy, doing some gardening and also cleaning up my study. We went out for a drive and we came back in the afternoon, to relax a little and then have dinner. A quiet night tonight and here goes another year!

For Art Sunday today, Raphael. He was an Italian Renaissance painter, considered to be one of the greatest and most popular artists of all time. Raphael was born Raffaello Santi (or Sanzio) in Urbino on April 6, 1483, and received his early training in art from his father, the painter Giovanni Santi. He also studied with Timoteo Viti at Urbino, executing under his influence a number of works of miniature-like delicacy, including Apollo and Marsyas and The Knight's Dream. In 1499 he went to Perugia, in Umbria, and became a student and assistant of the painter Perugino. Raphael imitated his master closely; their paintings of this period are executed in styles so similar that art historians have found it difficult to determine which were painted by Raphael.

In 1504 Raphael moved to Florence, where he studied the work of such established painters of the time as Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Fra Bartolommeo, learning their methods of representing the play of light and shade, anatomy, and dramatic action. At this time he made a transition to a more animated, informal manner of painting. His development during his Florentine period can best be traced in his numerous Madonnas.

Raphael's most important commissions during his stay in Florence came from Umbria. His most original composition of this period is the Entombment of Christ, an altarpiece that nevertheless shows the strong influence of Michelangelo in the postures and anatomical development of the figures.

In 1508 Raphael was called to Rome by Pope Julius II and commissioned to execute frescoes in four small stanze (rooms), of the Vatican Palace. The walls of the first room, the Stanza della Segnatura, are decorated with scenes elaborating ideas suggested by personifications of Theology, Philosophy, Poetry, and Justice, which appear on the ceiling. On the wall under Theology is the Disputà, representing a group discussing the mystery of the Trinity. The famous School of Athens, on the wall beneath Philosophy, portrays an open architectural space in which Plato, Aristotle, and other ancient philosophers are engaged in discourse. On the wall under Poetry is the celebrated Parnassus, in which the Greek god Apollo appears surrounded by the Muses and the great poets. The second Vatican chamber, the Stanza d' Eliodoro, painted with the aid of Raphael's assistants, contains scenes representing the triumph of the Roman Catholic church over its enemies.

After the death of Pope Julius II in 1513, and the accession of Leo X, Raphael's influence and responsibilities increased. He was made chief architect of Saint Peter's Basilica in 1514, and a year later was appointed director of all the excavations of antiquities in and near Rome. Because of his many activities, only part of the third room of the Vatican Palace, the Stanza del Incendio (1514-1517), was painted by him, and he merely provided the designs for the fourth chamber, the Sala Constantina. During this period he also designed ten tapestries illustrating the acts of Christ's apostles for the Sistine Chapel; the cartoons, or drawings, for these are now in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Raphael also devised the architecture and decorations of the Chigi Chapel in the Church of Santa Maria del Popolo and the decorations of the Villa Farnesina, which include the Triumph of Galatea (1513?).

In addition to these major undertakings, he executed a number of easel paintings, including a portrait of Julius II (1511-1512), a series of Madonnas, and the world-famous Sistine Madonna. Other religious paintings during this period include the Transfiguration (1517-1520, Vatican), completed posthumously by the most notable of Raphael's many followers, Giulio Romano. Raphael died in Rome on his 37th birthday, April 6, 1520.

His 'Madonna della Seggiola' (or The Seated Madonna, 1514) illustrated above is a fine example of his innovative style. For the first time the Madonna is portrayed with a more natural motherly expression, and her head is covered in a peasant's scarf. This more informal pose is set in the formal and elegant tondo (round) shape, thus retaining the finest in Quattrocento (early Renaissance) expression.

Enjoy your week!


  1. I love Raphael's paintings. This particular one that you have shared with us today is one of my all time favorites. The innocence of the young mother and peasant garb make it a very convincing one for me.