Raphael: Fame and Fortune
Synopsis
When Raphael died in 1520 his last painting, The Transfiguration, was just finished. It was placed at the head of his bier, while the great and the good of Rome filed past, paying homage to the artist and his work. Such an accolade would be remarkable even today; in the sixteenth century, it was unprecedented – testimony to Raphael’s singular fame.

This series of three webinars, conceived to complement the National Gallery’s exhibition Raphael (9 April- 31 July 2022), will follow the trajectory of his brief but dazzling career, from his origins in Urbino and formative encounters with Leonardo and Michelangelo in Florence, to his meteoric rise in Rome, where he swiftly became the preferred artist of the Papal Court, reaping the financial and social rewards of fame. Looking at masterpieces such as the Florentine Madonnas, the Vatican Stanze, the V&A Cartoons and of course the Transfiguration itself, we shall trace Raphael’s astonishing evolution and learn how he re-defined the art of painting, establishing a visual legacy that would endure for centuries.
Series of Three Lectures
  • On Demand
    Raphael: The Road to Fame
    Raphael (born 1483) grew up in the artistically refined ambit of Urbino, the son of court painter Giovanni Santi. According to Vasari, he was apprenticed to Perugino in Perugia, and although recent scholarship has questioned this, by the time he was twenty, Raphael was able to imitate Perugino’s fashionable style. Aged twenty-one, already with a string of Umbrian altarpiece commissions behind him, he established himself in Florence, where he produced some of ‘iconic’ early works, such as the Madonna of the Goldfinch and the Entombment. Raphael’s ambitions, however, led him to aspire to a larger stage, and in 1508 the twenty-six-year-old artist left Florence permanently, for Rome…
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  • On Demand
    Lecture 2 - Raphael: The Achievement of Fame
    Stylistically and professionally, Raphael’s trajectory in his early Roman years is astonishing. We can trace his rapid development from the serene, balanced scenography of his first work for Pope Julius II in the Vatican, the Stanza della Segnatura’s Disputà and School of Athens to the increasingly dramatic Expulsion of Heliodorus and Liberation of St Peter in the Stanza d’Eliodoro. All were groundbreaking works that pushed at the boundaries of what painting had hitherto achieved. By the time Julius II died in 1513, Raphael was the leading painter in Rome, eclipsing more established artists including his great rival Michelangelo. This was a process that had taken less than five years: he was still only thirty years old.
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  • Friday 1 July 2022 11am BST
    Lecture 3 - Raphael: The Triumph of Fame
    The final years of Raphael’s life are marked by an almost frenzied activity. There were ambitious projects at the Vatican for Pope Leo X including the cartoons for the Sistine Chapel tapestries and new architectural projects; for the papal banker Agostino Chigi he designed a multi-media chapel at S. Maria del Popolo, and light-hearted classicising fresco decorations at the Villa Farnesina. To cope with this workload, he relied on his talented workshop, testifying to his brilliance as a coordinator of large projects. Raphael died at the height of his powers, on his 37th birthday, 6th April 1520, having achieved social status, fame and fortune unprecedented for an artist. His artistic development in this short space of time is more remarkable still.
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