RAPHAEL: Painting Renaissance Art with Geometric Perfection

Socrates and Plato in The School
of Athens -by Raphael  (1509-10)

It was a night of cold December, probably, and the year was 1508 for sure. The people of Vatican were under the siege of severe cold and there entered a horse carrying a man with bright eyes and long hair. 

He had the fire of artistic passion in his heart. And in his pocket, he had an invitation from Pope Julius II for painting fresco on the walls of the Sistine Chapel. 

The man riding on the horse was Raphael who was to set his name in the hearts of art lovers for the next 500 years. He was to become a man of fame in the field of art and architecture.

If we desire to see the artworks with the hallmark of a painter’s genius, if we have a taste for clarity of form and neatness of composition, the paintings by Raphael would be one of the best catches. Unfortunately, Raphael died only at the age of 37 years; he had created a cult in the art of painting. He made his firm footprints of the entire history of art. Were we to talk about the art of the renaissance, were we to see the splendour and impressiveness of appearance, we have to talk about Raphael and his paintings.

The Life: Raphael (1483-1520) was an Italian painter and architect. Description of the Renaissance period would be incomplete without putting his name in the centre. He was the third angle of the great artistic triangle made of three great renaissance artists, along with Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. He kept his own style of painting intact while taking some beautiful factors of contemporary Florentine Art. Raphael depicted feminine aspects with profoundly artistic prowess. He would depict his passion for art and his attachment with each and every subject he painted, may it be an ordinary human figure or may it be the saintly beings.

Fresco - Apostolic Palace, Vatican CityThe School of Athens -by Rafael Sanzio

The School of Athens by Raphael,

This fresco, the art piece on the wall of Apostolic Palace, Vatican City, The School of Athens is painted by Raphael, at Sistine Chapel in Rome. Here the artist had painted the master of every field of knowledge. It includes Socrates, Plato, Pythagoras, Apollo, Minerva, Aristotle, Heraclitus, Euclid, Alexander the Great, Ptolemy, among others. Raphael himself included. When we look at the fresco, we feel that the painting makes us feel as entering into the space of the painting itself. 

Raphael was a master of the art of geometric construction. He had used it in many other masterpieces like School of Athens and Liberation of St. Peter. In these paintings and many others done by him, the triangular construction had become a fundamental element of his paintings. He had got an opportunity to work with two other great artists of the time: Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. They, all three masters, worked together while doing their work at Sistine Chapel. 

The Art: The painting of St Catherine was painted during his early stay in Florence, in the year 1507. Raphael was still passing in his years of getting the education that he gained from the experience and seeing the works of the other great Italian artists. 

Raffael stcatherina
St Catherine of Alexandria by Raphael

The Style: Many painters have chosen to portray St Catherine, as she is considered as representative of feminine behaviour. As a religious icon, she had huge follow up among women devotees. She had remained in the hearts of her devotees due to the importance of the virgin martyrs. Raphael's painting of Saint Catherine is one of the most famous of the paintings depicting the feminine aspects, for which he was so famous.  

In this painting, he had skilfully painted the figure standing with most of its weight on one foot. The twist of shoulders, arms and legs give a very dynamic and relaxed appearance of the lady. The upward gaze of a woman and her leaning on a wheel helps to create an effect of how she felt ecstasy while standing in this pose. 

Raphael had come from a small town. He was not well aware of the city of Florence. But it took no time for him to become the darling of the church and the others. He had painted several versions of Madonna and child.  

Rafaello Sanzio - Pietà, c. 1503-5
Pieta 1503-05 by  Raphael

Raphael's work was so ‘influencing’ for the other artists that his name divided the history of art into two segments: one Prep-Raphaelite and another Post-Raphaelite. If we see his paintings, Madonna, we can see his magical art. It is believed that the Mother was Virgin and the Virgin feels no age. She remains always pious and always young. Raphael had tried to depict this aspect in that painting. One of his paintings, titled Pieta, is famous for its clear depiction of grief. Moreover the passionate atmosphere Raphael had infused in it keeps our heart filled with devotion. In this painting Pieta, Mother Marry is holding the body of Jesus after the crucifixion. The face of Mother Marry is shown as young. The legacy of His work was so ‘influencing’ for the other artists that his name divided the history of art into two segments: one Pre-Raphaelite and another Post-Raphaelite.  

Descent from the Cross by Raphael

Geometric Perfection in Raphael's Paintings: Raphael never missed the geomagnetic proportions to infuse in his paintings. In the painting  "Descent from the Cross" (given below), he wonderfully maintained to put all the main figures in the defined triangle spaces. 

In the Descent from the Cross, we can see the emphasized geometric construction dividing the whole scene into two different triangular shapes. The well-know mythological concept of the resurrection of Christ is depicted here. It is painted in a near realistic manner. Look at the curved body of Jesus; look at the nearly unconscious Virgin Mary. This position of the main figures helps us to understand the scene clearly. The triangular construction and the curves, in the body of Christ and two carriers, give a dynamic look to the whole painting. [All the paintings are in Public Domain, taken from Wikimedia Commons]

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