Raphael – Seraphic Genius of the Renaissance
6 April marks the 500th death anniversary of one of art genius Raphael. 500 years ago, at the age of 37, one of the greatest painters in history packed up his brushes and shuffled off this mortal coil.
From Vatican frescoes to modest wooden panels, he left behind a significant body of work in both size and importance, which included some of the most famous paintings of all time. Raphael really needs no introduction, and there is no doubt that the Italian artist and architect had an extremely profound influence on the art world that still resonates today, but do the pieces themselves still hold relevance in this modern world of ours?
The Great art historian Vasari wrote:
“We are hungry for beauty in desperate times because it is then that we need it most. Beauty is a sanctuary. It’s a fundamental, not because it may offer escape from reality, but because we discover that the beauty of human virtues is what we desire most when life’s superficialities are stripped away from us. When we live in uncertainty and fear we desire stability and order. We long for the good things of civilization that we might take for granted otherwise. Raphael’s Madonnas remind us of the simple human love of a mother for a child, of the nurturing gaze of all mothers, and the comfort they bring. We see the best of ourselves in them. His impossibly gorgeous but absolutely anachronistic gathering of the greatest philosophers into his School of Athens was painted while Italy was in the middle of a period of chaotic wars, and burgeoning anxieties raised annually by potential resurgences of the pestilence, yet his focus was upon the gathered representatives of the long ideas of Western thought, while also using the greatest artists of his own time as models. Leonardo da Vinci is at the center playing the role of Plato, pointing to the heavenly source of the ideal forms. Michelangelo, front and center as Heraclitus, who said that change is constant; and fresh-faced Raphael himself, peeking from behind the pillar on the right as Apelles, immodestly casting himself as the paramount painter of Ancient Greece.”