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Raphael Sanzio, or Santi (1483-1520), who was born at Urbino on Good Friday. His father was a painter, and Raphael showed his taste for art very early in life. Both his parents died while he was still a child, and though he must have learned something from seeing his father and other painters at their work, we say that Perugino was his first master, for he was but twelve years old when he entered the studio of that painter in Perugia.

During his first winter here he painted the so-called “Madonna della Gran Duca,” now in the Pitti Gallery, and thus named because the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Ferdinand III., carried it with him on all his journeys, and said his prayers before it at morning and evening. He made a visit to Urbino in 1505, and wherever he was he worked continually, and finished a great number of pictures, which as yet were of religious subjects with few and unimportant exceptions.

Portrait of Raphael - Painted by Himself
Portrait of Raphael - Painted by Himself
When he returned to Florence in 1506, the cartoon of Leonardo da Vinci’s “Battle of the Standard” and Michael Angelo’s “Bathing Soldiers” revealed a new world of art to Raphael. He saw that heroic, exciting scenes could be represented by painting, and that vigor and passion could speak from the canvas as powerfully as Christian love and resignation. Still he did not attempt any new thing immediately. In Florence he moved in the best circles. He received orders for some portraits of nobles and wealthy men, as well as for madonnas and Holy Families. Before long he visited Bologna, and went again to Urbino, which had become a very important city under the reign of Duke Guidobaldo. The king of England, Henry VIII., had sent to this duke the decoration of the Order of the Garter. In return for this honor, the duke sent the king rich gifts, among which was a picture of St. George and the Dragon by Raphael.

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