Raphael was born on April 6, 1483 in Urbino in the Marche region. In 1491 when Raphael was eight, his mother died. Bette Talvacchia, author of Raphael cites that not much is known about Raphael’s personal life because he kept to himself about many things, but many historians believe that his personal life is portrayed through his paintings (8). Richard Cocke, author of The Complete Paintings of Raphael states that at the age of seventeen Raphael began to gain popularity as an artist and was, at that time, first commissioned as an artist (Cocke 83). Raphael was known for his historical paintings, such as The School of Athens, the way he painted the nude, and his amazing ability to make colors look vivid using oil paint (Cocke 5). Historical paintings are a type of painting genera that focuses on the story line rather that one specific moment, as in a portrait. Also, when painting with oil paint, it is difficult to make colors bright, so Raphael excelled at that. One of Raphael’s styles that he used was idealization rather than realism. Richard Cocke notes that “Raphael himself wrote to his friend Castiglione in 1514 about the problem of painting a beautiful woman: “I use a certain idea, which comes into my mind.” (5) Also, many of Raphael’s self-portraits show him dressed up as an elegant man rather than an artist, leading some to believe that he did not want to be viewed as an artist (Talvacchia 8). Raphael has an amazing ability to keep his artwork well balanced and organized (Talvacchia 8). Bette Talvacchia discusses:
One of Raphael’s primary contributions to painting was to perfect the unison of classicizing technique with the tenets of naturalism. When composing a figure, for example, he referred to the visual evidence of live models, but eliminated dissonance and flaws, replacing the imperfect with his concept of the proper, satisfying form. (12)
This can help to explain why some of his works portray figures differently than how they likely looked in real life, which some people find more interesting. Further, his technique “… resulted in a style that was both polished and alive.” (Talvacchia 14) which is probably why his work is still studied today.
The School of Athens (see fig. 1) was painted by Raphael between 1510 and 1511 and according to Roy Matthews, F. DeWitt Platt, and Thomas Noble, authors of The Western Humanities, the painting is located in Vatican City (Matthews, Platt, Noble 353-55). The reason Raphael painted The School of Athens was because Julius II commissioned it under his rule (Talvacchia 90). Since philosophy, science, and exploration was so important during this time, Julius wanted an influential piece of art to reflect the times. Everyone in this painting, whether they are a philosopher, painter, or scientist, is grouped in a specific order. The order represents the seven liberal arts which Cocke describes: “…in the left foreground, grammar, arithmetic and music…on the right geometry, [and] at...