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Raphael: A Renaissance Master Essay

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Updated: May 2nd, 2022

Introduction: The Beginning of a New Era

Though the Renaissance Era was represented by a range of various artists, who seemed to follow the principles introduced by da Vinci and Michelangelo quite closely, there is only one person, who has practically become a household name, became the representation of the era.

Creating a range of artworks and developing his own original style by adding the concept of harmony into the theory of art that was followed at the time, he stood out of the rest of artists. Despite the fact that, in contrast to the tendency to experiment in his early works, Raphael was obviously following the staples of his own genre at the end of his career, his influence in the development of the Renaissance painting is not to be underrated.

Thesis statement

Although the style that Rafael developed over the course of his evolution as an artist was influenced greatly by the works of Leonardo da Vinci in terms of composition and technical expression and Michelangelo in that the latter defined a entirely new portrayal of human body in his sculptures, Rafael managed to not only blend the two styles into one, but also develop several unique characteristics, including the color cast harmony and a compositional balance, which led to the creation of an original style, which would later define the era of Renaissance and make Rafael’s artworks the representation of the epoch.

Following into the Footsteps of the Great Masters: The Influence of Michelangelo and da Vinci. The Umbrian Period

The earliest works of Raphael show clearly where he drew his inspiration from. Not that these works were unoriginal – far from it; however, they still lent a lot of their key features from the creations of da Vinci and Michelangelo. Taking one of Raphael’s most famous and well remembered works, Madonna and Child with the Book, as an example, one will notice inevitably that it shares a range of features with the paintings that da Vinci was so well known for.

For example, the color cast and the choice of the form point clearly at the fact that Raphael studied the technique that Mona Lisa was painted with very closely. However, even at this stage of his artistic progress, he managed to introduce new elements into the existing styles by “capturing the characters of his sitters” (Adams 350).

The similarities between da Vinci’s and Raphael’s approaches towards expressing their vision and depicting the Renaissance reality as they saw it can be traced easily when comparing da Vinci’s Mona Lisa to some of Raphael’s other early works. More to the point, these were not only the line work and the color cast that defined these similarities. The realization of the obvious link between the works of the two artists may come as one compares the very posture of Raphael’s numerous Madonnas to da Vinci’s “swan song.”

For example, the main character in Lady with the Unicorn clearly strikes the same pose as Mona Lisa in da Vinci’s painting; the same can be applied to the Portrait of Maddalena Doni and several other works of the Renaissance artist (Paintings During the Stay in Florence (1505-06) para. 15).

The aesthetics of a range of Raphael’s works of this period also bar a very distinct resemblance to the one of Michelangelo’s sculptures. Though not as obvious as the similarities between da Vinci’s and Raphael’s creations, the details that coincide in Raphael’s and Michelangelo’s artworks also give a lot of food for thoughts.

It is remarkable that Michelangelo and Raphael were rivals at the time. Nevertheless – or, perhaps, as a result of their rivalry – they shared a lot of common elements in their artworks, and especially in their manner of expression. The similarities in Michelangelo’s and Raphael’s works, however, did not end with the stylistics and overall aesthetics of the paintings. Much like Michelangelo, Raphael seemed to be inclined to create his own istoria (Adams 338), which resulted in an unusual representation of the traditional Biblical concepts.

For example, the human body sculpture, which Raphael follows very closely in each of his paintings, especially in the creation of the numerous Madonnas, such as the Madonna del Cardellino, shows the tendency for Raphael to experiment with his characters’ poses and use poses as one of the means of artistic expression; for example, some of his works feature a character that “reverses the pose of Michelangelo’s David” (Adams 328).

The heritage that Michelangelo left for Raphael, however, is not as impressive as the one of da Vinci. Though some of the artworks created by the two artists did have a number of points of contact, the impact that da Vinci had left on Rafael was still too strong for Michelangelo to overshadow it.

Vatican Decorations and Paintings in Rome: Idealism at Its Highest Peak

It would be wrong to assume that Raphael only blended the two styles without adding anything g of his own to them; instead, he worked very hard on both his technique and the expressivity of his work, creating the pieces of art that were literally packed with metaphors and allusions.

As soon as Raphael went to Rome after being invited to work on the Sistine Chapel, he displayed two scenes from the Old Testament, making a range of alterations to the traditional narrative. The assimilation and synthesis of several Biblical stories was an entirely new approach at the time, which allowed Raphael to gain an easily recognizable and very distinct style.

Another example, The Stanza Della Segnatura, which can be considered one of his major works in Rome, can also be viewed as another step towards developing a truly unique artistic style (The Stanza Della Segnatura para. 1). It was obvious that Raphael was experimenting with form and line, at the same time trying to fit in a range of Biblical allusions into his work.

The famous Galatea, which appeared only a few years later, also featured the same approach.

Perhaps, one of the greatest changes that Raphael underwent as an artist and which contributed the most to the evolution of a new and unique style, concerned Raphael’s refusal to work with bright colors, which he preferred in the early stage of his artistic growth. Indeed, comparing the Parnassus, which heralded the era of the beginning of Raphael’s artistic journey, to such an artwork as Psyche Received on Olympus, one will notice that the color palette used by the artist shrank considerably.

Though the refusal to abandon bright colors was not complete, and even some of the latest works by Raphael featured very peculiar combinations of colors, for the most part, his works became rather restrained in terms of color cast and the use of bright and saturated palettes for rendering the idea behind the artwork.

Where the Journey Ends: Coining a New Manner of Artistic Expression

The latest works created by Raphael show clearly that he had found his niche by the time that he became a renowned artist. The aforementioned Sistine Chapel is a very graphic example of how Raphael’s vision of art changed throughout his own evolution as an artist and an original thinker; for instance, the Last Judgment Altar, which, according to the existing historical records, was not completed until 1520 (Adams 337).

The painting invites the viewer into the surreal world of the supposed Biblical event of the same name, and it does so in a very peculiar manner. Rafael’s tendency to avoid combinations of numerous colors in the same artwork reaches its peak in this work of art – the entire fresco is monochromatic. As a result, the focus is entirely on the Last Judgment and its participants, which allows for a closer analysis of Raphael’s interpretation of this event.

In addition, it would be erroneous to assume that da Vinci and Michelangelo were the only artists, whose creations Raphael drew his inspiration from. Apart from analyzing the artworks of his contemporaries, he also paid close attention to the way in which his predecessors worked on perfecting the tools for artistic expression.

For example, Villa Madama, and especially the interior of the loggia, was inspired by the works of Nero’s architects: “This was inspired by the ruins of Nero’s Golden House that had come to light in the early years of the sixteenth century” (Adams 355).

Conclusion: Influence and Followers

Though the era of Raphael’s’ influence on the Renaissance painting was rather short, the artist still defined the further stylistic evolution of the Renaissance by showing that art could be used for not only representing the traditional Biblical scenes and fables, but also offering the viewers the author’s unique interpretation of these events. Moreover, Raphael showed that it was actually possible to blend several metaphors into an original idea.

Despite the fact that the influence of two key artists of the Renaissance Era, Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo, was very strong in Raphael’s works at first, as the artist gained new experiences and developed new skills, he managed to conjure an entirely new style by assembling the elements of the artistic expression tools used by Michelangelo and da Vinci and including them into his own vision of art as a means to provide new interpretations of the traditional Biblical narratives and characters.

Raphael was one of the few artists who were capable of reconsidering their vision of methods of artistic expression; though he had chosen a very distinct and rather bright color palette at first, he was finally convinced by the examples of da Vinci and Michelangelo that a more composed color cast was more appropriate for rendering the ideas related to the Biblical stories and characters.

Thus, the artworks kept the focus on the message behind them without distracting the viewer. Clearly one of the most influential people of the renaissance Era, Raphael became an accomplished artist comparatively fast and left a massive heritage for the followers to admire and mimic.

Works Cited

Adams, Laurie Schneider. Italian Renaissance Art. Boulder, CO: Westview Press. 2013. Print.

Paintings During the Stay in Florence (1505-06). Web.

The Stanza Della Segnatura. Web.

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