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Reviewing Raphael The Renaissance Period Artist Religion Essay

The Renaissance Period was marked by an interest in Scholasticism, Humanism and Classicism. Many philosophers, writers, poets, and artists, etc. flourished during this time period. One of these artists was a painter named Raphael. He was greatly influenced by several artists of the time. Among his works are the Parnassus, the Disputa, and the School of Athens. Raphael was one of the greatest artists of the Renaissance, and his work clearly portrays the values of this time period.

During the Renaissance Period, Scholasticism, Humanism, and Classicism were very popular. Scholasticism focused on education in the areas of math and science (Notes). Humanism sought to broaden the educational experience by incorporating grammar, history, poetry, philosophy, etc. Classicism sought to connect with the ideals of Greco-Roman antiquity that were lost during the Medieval Period. This created an environment that was conducive to education and art, and many philosophers, writers, poets, artists, etc. thrived during the Renaissance Period. (“The Renaissance” 35-36).

Raphael was born during the Renaissance Period, and as a result, he came in contact with many artists throughout his life. This greatly influenced Raphael as an artist. The first person to influence his life was his father, Giovanni Sanzio. He was a painter at the Urbino court, “an important center of literature, philosophy and art” (Domenico 153). In addition to growing up under his father’s influence, Raphael was also influenced by the artist, Pietro Perugino. It was originally believed that when Raphael’s father died, he was sent to be an apprentice to Perugino (153). Recent historical evidence suggests that this is a myth (Talvacchia 18). Nevertheless, “it is clear that [Raphael] Santi appreciated Perugino’s painting and borrowed from it in his own work” (18).

Raphael was also influenced by the artists Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci. “Although Michelangelo was secretive about his work, some of Raphael’s extant drawings show that he was given access to unfinished projects such as the Cascina cartoon and the unfinished sculpture of Saint Matthew” (56). Despite the fact that this relationship between Raphael and Michelangelo became a rivalry, Raphael admired and studied Michelangelo’s work (56). The greatest influence on Raphael as an artist was Leonardo da Vinci. According to Talvacchia, writer of Raphael:

This is strongly evident in the finished paintings, both in composition and style, as well as in the drawings that survive, where an increased range of techniques becomes evident. An impressive example exists in Raphael’s delicate and superbly rendered drawing of Leda and the Swan, copied from a painting by

Leonardo that was famous in its time, but is now lost…Here Leonardo’s

atmospheric composition is transformed into an emphatically delineated figure

study, resoundingly sculptural in its conception. The mutation show that Raphael

examined the work of individual masters analytically, applying his study to

specific ends, rather than simply recreating his model (56).

Influenced by his father, Perugino, Michelangelo, and Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael developed his artistic skills and moved to Rome in 1508 and was commissioned to paint in the Vatican (Domenico 153). It was there that he painted the School of Athens and the Disputa. These works “embodied the essence of Renaissance humanism in its synthesis of Classical and Christian ideals” (153). Raphael went on to become the architect of St. Peter’s, and continued to paint and build for patrons until his death in 1520 (153-154).

Raphael contributed greatly to the legacy of the Renaissance. Many young artists were influenced by his work. “His rise from traditional apprentice to valued member of the papal court signaled the rising status of painting as an intellectual enterprise” (154). His status as artist grew substantially after his death. “His works were copied as training exercises. His technique, based on the clear linear definition of forms and geometrically integrated compositions, became standard practice in official art academies throughout Europe” (154).

Raphael’s paintings are his clearly his greatest legacy and are a great representation of the ideals of the Renaissance. His fresco, the Parnassus, which he painted for the Vatican, celebrates Poetry. Apollo is the predominant figure in this painting, and he is shown in his role as the god of poetry. He is surrounded by muses and poets. Homer, Dante, Sappho, and Petrarch, an early humanist, are among those depicted in the painting (Talvacchia 90). The figures also “gesture earnestly and intently discuss their work, bringing the personification of Poetry to life” (90). The depiction of both poets and classical figures in the Parnassus is a celebration of Humanism and Classicism.

Another of Raphael’s famous paintings is the Disputa. This painting celebrates Theology. The focus of the painting is on “the Four Doctors of the Church who flank the altar. Their status and placement equates to that of Plato and Aristotle [in the School of Athens]” (92). Also, depicted are several theologians and saints. Dante is depicted in the Disputa as well (92). This indicates a connection between the two paintings, the Parnassus and the Disputa. The Dispute also faces the School of Athens. “The ‘face-off’ between these two works is calculated to stress the interrelation of the two schools of thought, rather than to mark their opposition” (90).

Another famous painting of Raphael is the School of Athens. The School of Athens is Raphael’s greatest representation of Renaissance ideals. The painting is very light in color. This represents the end of the Dark Ages (Notes). “Close observation of Raphael’s composition for the School of Athens shows that it is controlled by groupings of responsive listeners gathered around sages actively propounding their ideas” (Talvacchia 86). Plato and Aristotle are the focus of the painting. Each one is surrounded by a group of engaged listeners. Socrates, Epicurus, and Euclid are, likewise, surrounded by their own group of interested listeners (86). This shows the regard for the humanistic ideals of the Renaissance.

Additionally, Plato is pointing to the sky, symbolizing thought, and Aristotle is pointing down, symbolizing the scholastic ideals (natural sciences and math) of the Renaissance (Notes). Also, depicted in the painting are Apollo and Minerva, who “presided over the wisdom that accrued during the Golden Age of antiquity” (Talvacchia 86). This second appearance of Apollo in Raphael’s work shows a connection between the Parnassus and the School of Athens. The depiction of classical figures, such as Plato, Aristotle, Ptolemy, and Zoroaster also show regard for the ideals of Classicism (86).

Also, the figure in the foreground with the “marble block, quill pen, ink, and paper point to the tempestuous sculptor who wrote sonnets, Michelangelo” (90). This shows a regard for the artistic ideals of the Renaissance. “Diogenes the Cynic, anti-social in demeanor and scruffy in appearance…provides the foil for the adulation of the philosophers. He also acts as a compositional punctuation, marking the empty central space of the scene” (86). This clearly shows his ability to paint, and clearly portray the ideals of the Renaissance Period.

Raphael, the painter, clearly conveys and celebrates, through his work, the ideals of the Renaissance Period. Many artists influenced Raphael’s career. Raphael’s most famous body of work includes the Parnassus, the Disputa, and the School of Athens. He is one of greatest of the several artists, poets, writers, philosophers, etc. who thrived because of the interest in Humanism, Scholasticism, and Classicism that marked the Renaissance Period.

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