Raffaello canvas prints & artprints

Recognised as one of the greatest painters in history, Raphael left his mark on the world with his brushstrokes, creating numerous paintings and frescoes that would influence both his contemporaries and artistic circles down the centuries. Regarded by the historian Giorgio Vasari as one of the greatest painters of his generation, his technique gave rise to Mannerism, carried by masters such as Giorgio Vasari himself, Julius Romano, El Greco and Tintoretto. A versatile artist, Raphael was recognised both during his lifetime and after his death for his canvases with themes taking place around religion, with numerous representations of the Holy Madonna, but also for his portraits and drawings offering plans of numerous Roman buildings in the 16th century.

Discover Raphael's greatest canvases with his painting "The Holy Canigiani Family" (1507, Munich Alte Pinakothek), a canvas created for Domenico Canigiani, and having formed part of the great collection of paintings of the Medici, "The Dispute of the Blessed Sacrament" (1509, Vatican Palace), a fresco taking place in Raphael's famous Rooms, the "Portrait of Pope Julius II" (1511, National Gallery, London), his most famous portrait that revolutionised the point of view associated with this technique, or "Saint Paul Preaching in Athens" (1515, Victoria and Albert Museum, London), a tempera on cardboard from which the tapestries in the Sistine Chapel were made.

Give yourself a real piece of history with a copy of a painting by Raphael available in the catalogue, and discover the biography of the master of 16th-century painting.


Biography of Raphael


Raphael's early life, from Urbino to Perugia


Raphael Sanzio, better known as Raphael was born in 1483 in the town of Urbino, Umbria, an important cultural centre of the Italian Renaissance. Born into a family in which artistic practice was a vocation, the young Raphael was immersed in the artistic and intellectual riches of his time from an early age. His father, a painter with his own studio, probably passed on to him the first elements that were to lead Raphael towards a career of incomparable artistic genius.

The period of his early youth in Urbino strongly influenced his conception of pictorial composition. Already talented, he became familiar with oil, a medium that was still revolutionary at the time, allowing a wider range of effects and finishes for his canvases. The artists presented in Urbino thus bequeathed Raphael a precise aesthetic code that enhanced his budding skill.

The young painter was also strongly influenced by another great master: Perugino. Based in Perugia, Perugino was renowned for his religious compositions, particularly his frescoes. By observing the works of Perugino, Raphael began to assimilate the important aspects of the representation of religious figures. Raphael's name soon became associated with works of incomparable delicacy, compositions that regularly featured the Virgin and Child, themes that were dear to many patrons. The "Madonna" then became a recurring subject in his work, a central element in his artistic exploration.

Rising to become an accomplished painter, he was soon called upon to carry out major commissions, these early works often being executed on cardboard, on the scale of a fresco, before being transferred to the wall or canvas, a common practice at the time to guarantee the precision of the final work. From this period would emerge many works that contributed to his fame, such as the "Madonna of Casa Santi" (1498), "The Resurrection" (1501), "The Colonna Altarpiece" (1504), painted for the church of San Antonio, or "The Marriage of the Virgin" (1504), his first work in autonomy done for the church of San Francesco in Città di Castello.


Florence: Growing fame for Raphael


When Raphael arrived in Florence in 1504, the creative atmosphere of the city was already permeated by the artistic achievements of Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, two illustrious artists who were to bring great influence to the young Umbrian painter. In Florence, Raphael continued to draw inspiration from his mastery of oils, to give his paintings exceptional depth and intensity. 

In this bubbling centre of art and innovation, in which the code of classical beauty of the 16th century was written, Raphael divided his time between contemplating Florentine masterpieces and creating his own compositions. In his exploration of form and colour, he painted several pictures of the Virgin with Child, continuing the work he had begun in his early years as an apprentice, and perpetuating the traditional theme of the Madonna so revered in Florence. With each painting, Raphael's work gained in depth, testifying to his evolution and his encounters with other artists such as Leonardo da Vinci, whose influence could be felt in Raphael's creations during his stay in Florence, as he regularly drew inspiration from sfumato, a technique invented by Leonardo da Vinci.

Many of the city's notables quickly commissioned him, proof of his acquired fame. As a result, he painted several pictures for wealthy families, "The Canigiani Holy Family" being undoubtedly the most famous oil on wood that has come down to us, illustrating his ability to combine tenderness and sacredness in the same work, with its balanced composition and accurate representation of the sacred figures. Raphael owed his rise mainly to holy painting, but he diversified his techniques by tackling the portrait genre. The precise execution of the portraits reveals an observant Raphael, capable of capturing the essence of his models with a finesse that once again reveals the influence of the major artists of the time, such as Leonardo da Vinci.  

Despite his move to Florence, commissions from Umbria continued to come in, and so in addition to the various paintings and altarpieces begun before 1504, and completed in the Florentine city, Raphael also painted other works for his home region, such as the "Madonna and Child with Saints John the Baptist and Nicholas" for the church of San Fiorenzo in Perugia, or the "Baglioni Altarpiece", commissioned for the church of San Francesco al Prato in Perugia, the success of which opened the doors of Rome to the young painter.


Raphael in Rome, the pope's painter.


Invited by Pope Julius II, following the fame he had acquired in Florence, Raphael arrived in Rome in 1508, a city in which he was to settle and work until his death in 1520. One of his first assignments in the Italian city was quickly to decorate several rooms in the Vatican, the pope's residence. Influenced by Michelangelo and the decorations in the Sistine Chapel, which were being created at the same time, he succeeded in integrating this atmosphere, while at the same time bringing his own style to the fore, to create what is known as "Raphael's Rooms", which he did not complete until 1517, and which is considered today to be one of the major works of his career. This papal commission led to episcopal requests, such as for the church of Santa Maria della Pace, or for other wealthy patrons, such as Agostino Chigi, an Italian banker for whom he created frescoes for his Villa Farnesina.

A tireless and versatile worker, Raphael also expanded his repertoire by composing impressive portraits. For example, he painted several portraits of the Pope and other dignitaries of the Church, which are recognised today for their depth and realism. Bringing a new technique to bear, he moved away from the classical frontal depiction and allowing no emotion to show, then inseparable from the official portrait, and introduced diagonal angles of view, while allowing the psychological and spiritual dimension of his subject to shine through, as can be seen in the portraits of Julius II and Leo X.

Although fresco was the preferred technique for his major decorative projects, Raphael also excelled in oil painting. His Madonnas, such as the famous Sistine Madonna, glorify the figure of the Blessed Virgin with a gentleness and piety that became essential references for future generations. At the same time, his altarpieces continued to celebrate sanctity through a masterful religious iconography, intended as much for churches as for private devotions.

His mastery of painting on wood, as much as on canvas, is also noteworthy. One of the most emblematic examples undoubtedly remains the oil on wood "The Holy Family of Francis I", a diplomatic gift ordered by the Pope for Francis I, in which the harmonious composition bears witness to his undeniable talent.

Beyond painting, Raphael was able to establish his own aesthetic code, fusing the technical advances of his predecessors with his own formal research. Faced with a growing number of commissions, he even went so far as to create a large studio accommodating up to 50 students, to whom he taught his vision of art. Here he would train many renowned artists, the most famous of whom would remain Giulio Romano, one of the first Mannerists.


Raphael the architect


In Rome, particularly between 1514 and 1520, these years marked a pivotal period in Raphael's career, during which he moved beyond the role of painter alone to embrace that of a creator of sacred and secular spaces. It is undeniable today that the walls of the Vatican have retained the echo of his footsteps as much as those of his illustrious contemporary, Michelangelo.

Raphael, by then already recognised as a painter of great talent, was attracted by the architecture of palaces and chapels, these buildings reflecting the ideals of symmetry, proportion and harmony dear to the Renaissance code of beauty, but also those of his spiritual vision. His appointment in 1514 as chief architect of the factory of St Peter's Basilica testifies to his ability to modify and sublimate the architectural landscape of the church. Inheriting Bramante's ambitious plans, it was under his direction that Rome's most important building site saw its vision renewed with its five-bay nave.

Becoming one of Rome's most prominent architects, many buildings would bear the imprint of Raphael's finesse. From the Palazzo Branconio dell'Aquila to the Palazzo Jacopo da Brescia, the Palazzo Alberini and the Villa Madama, the latter of which remained unfinished at the time of the painter's death, he was able to imbue them with his genius, ensuring that his buildings best suited their function and aesthetic, in the strict tradition of the Renaissance. The Chigi Chapel in the church of Santa Maria del Popolo is another striking example of Raphael's mastery as an architect. Inspired by classical architecture and the need to create a sacred space that uplifts the spirit, he designed the layout of the chapel, interweaving his love of painting with his architectural skills. The frescoes and sculptures that adorn the chapel, also created by the artist, attest to his versatility in linking form, function and symbolism in perfect unity.


The end of Raphael's life, the artist elevated to divine status


Having been installed in the Palazzo Caprini since 1917, Raphael's works soon found an audience among the city's notables, particularly the Pope, his paintings and frescoes finding a divine echo in the Vatican's sacred halls. It was with this well-established reputation that he earned the titles of "Gentleman of the Chamber" and "Knight of the Papal Order of the Golden Spur". Giorgio Vasari, a leading art historian of the 16th century, would even submit the theory that the young artist was planning to become a Cardinal, further reinforcing the idea of a total devotion to religious painting and its importance in his life.

Having fragile health, Raphael died suddenly in 1520, aged just 37, after contracting malaria. He left behind an immeasurable artistic legacy, his frescoes, paintings and sketches remaining witnesses to the artistic code of the 16th century, and the divine aspect he had managed to infuse into his art. "The Transfiguration", a painting he began in 1517, and which was completed by his disciple Giulio Romano, because it was unfinished at his death, represents in every respect Raphael's brushstroke, and the themes that were dear to him.

After his death, Raphael was quickly elevated to the rank of the divine in the eyes of his contemporaries, his death on Good Friday further reinforcing this aspect. Between legends and very real works demonstrating immeasurable talent, Raphael remains a painter whose work marks the annals of art history to this day.


Raphael's undeniable influence across the centuries


A leading figure in the Pantheon of great painters, Raphael's influence extends to the walls of today's museums, where his works continue to captivate millions of visitors. From the Louvre Museum in Paris to the National Gallery in London, every Raphael canvas in prestigious collections is a window onto the artistic code and technique of the 16th century.

Between tempera on cardboard, oil on wood or canvas and gigantic frescoes, it is with masterpieces such as, the "Colonna Altarpiece" in the church of Saint Anthony (now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York), his oil on wood "Baglioni Altarpiece" in the church of San Francesco al Prato in Perugia, and his "Portrait of Julius II", among many others, that Raphael perfectly illustrates his ability to harmonise the sacred and humanism, the natural elements and faith. In his "Lives of the best painters, sculptors and architects", Giorgio Vasari is full of praise for Raphael, describing him as a master whose legacy continues to modify and define the art of his time, witness Mannerism, directly derived from Raphael's style.

Museums around the world today snatch up pieces of his legacy. Raphael captured the quintessence of the Renaissance on canvas, marvelling at his use of light, the purity of his lines and the expression of his subjects. As a result, his paintings are among the most important pieces in the collections of the greatest museums, including the Louvre, the National Gallery in London, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg. But it is above all in the Vatican Museums that his canvases take on an even greater sacred dimension, bringing large numbers of visitors to admire the genius of this essential 16th-century artist.

Learn more about the life and the works of Raffaello.

Oour Canvas artprints from Raphaël's paintings