While many may not have heard of Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino, Raphael (as he was known) is a name altogether more familiar. The prolific painter and architect, who was born and raised in a small hilltop town, went on to become one of the most influential and revered of all the great High Renaissance masters. |
An art-focused Florence tour will reveal just how close the city holds the artist to its heart. There are numerous highlights that celebrate the man and illustrate just how important he was, and still is, to the immense Renaissance legacy.
Raphael in Florence
The young painter learnt the basic techniques under the tutelage of his father, who also encouraged his budding interest in humanist philosophy. After his father's death (when the boy was just 11) he travelled to Perugia, where he was apprenticed to the Umbrian master Perugino. But it was in 1504, when as a 21-year-old he moved to live and work in Florence, that Raphael truly came into his own.
In the four years he spent in the city, he closely studied the work of other Italian painters of the time, including Michelangelo, Fra Bartolommeo and Leonardo da Vinci, and developed his unique style. By extensive experimentation and a prolific work ethic he was able to take the themes of his peers to an entirely new level. During this period, his practiced skills in composition, spacial depth and clarity of colour saw him produce some of his most evocative and celebrated works.
Works in the Pitti Palace
The Medici splendour of the Pitti Palace is an integral part of an art-themed Florence tour. The Palatine Gallery houses the permanent collection of many of Raphael's most famous portraits, including his depiction of the Madonna dell’Impannata with St John. The serene La Donna Gravida is notable in that it was uncommon for Renaissance painters to depict pregnant women.
The magnificent Room of Saturn (within the Halls of Planets) displays a large number of Raphael's works. Among them are the unfinished Madonna del Baldacchino, the Vision of Ezekiel (depicting the prophet's vision of God), the Maddalena Strozzi and the Portrait of Agnolo Doni. Possibly the best known of the artist's works is the beautiful Madonna della Seggiola (Madonna of the Chair), which is an unusually tender portrait of mother and child.
Works in the Uffizi
Another important stop on an art-focused Florence tour, the Galleria degli Uffizi's Hall 66 is a room dedicated to its Raphael collection.
The luminous Madonna of the Goldfinch shows the influence of Da Vinci on the artist's work, which is seen in the soft light and intimacy between the subjects. Despite the similarities to Da Vinci's style, the sharp colours and gentle facial expressions are unmistakably Raphael's.
The Portrait of Pope Leo X is a fine example of Raphael's progression to less "idealised" portraits, and the pope is shown as an ageing figure alongside two of his cardinals. Portraits from his Ducal collection include Portrait of Elisabetta Gonzaga, Portrait of Guidobaldo da Montefeltro and Young Man with an Apple. The room also houses his Self Portrait, which although formerly disputed as authentic has now been confirmed as the artist's own work.
Masters of the High Renaissance
Raphael's time in Florence was the most influential of his short life. It broadened his artistic and philosophical horizons and brought him into contact with Michelangelo and Da Vinci, establishing him as one of the leading figures in High Renaissance classicism.
Rose Magers is an Australian-born Italophile and the founder of ArtViva. With an international reputation for excellence and creativity, ArtViva are at the forefront of escorted day tours in Italy. Rose has indulged her own passion for history and the arts by designing an innovative range of exceptional small group Florence touritineraries and experiences, from guided visits to view the masterpieces of the great art galleries to unforgettable Italian cookery and art classes.
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