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Raphael (1483-1520)

Born in Urbino in 1483, Raphael trained with his father and then the Umbrian artist, Perugino (1445/50-1523). From 1504/5 he worked in Florence where he was much influenced by Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, learning from their depictions of the idealized human body, their understanding of anatomy and the suggestion of movement within these forms.

Like Michelangelo, Raphael was summoned to Rome by Pope Julius II around 1508/9. He began work on the decoration of the Vatican Stanze, a series of rooms in the Pope's apartments. Other important works are the Chigi Chapel, S. Maria della Pace, Rome, and the Tapestry Cartoons of the Acts of the Apostles (Victoria and Albert Museum, London) and his designs for the rebuilding of St Peter's. As a highly successful artist he had many assistants who helped him on major altarpieces and frescoes. He died, tragically young in Rome, in 1520.

With Leonardo and Michelangelo, Raphael is considered the third great artist of the Italian High Renaissance. His contribution to the art of drawing was a mastery of several techniques: metalpoint, chalk or pen and ink. His figures have a grace and classical beauty that was imitated by many later artists. The serene figures of his altarpieces, frescoes and cartoons are composed with balance and harmony.

The British Museum has about forty drawings by Raphael. There is also a collection of prints after Raphael.