Raffaello Sanzio, or simply Raphael, was an Italian painter who was born in Urbino of the Montefeltro in 1483 (Picture 1), an important cultural center at the time.
Raphael, along with Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo, are regarded as the Great Masters of the later Renaissance, who have exerted a lasting influence on Western art. His father, also a painter, sent his son to be apprenticed to Perugino (Picture 2) where he quickly rose to teacher status himself.
One of his first surviving works is the Retample of Colona (Picture 3), an altar painting of 1502, situated in the New York Metropolitan Museum. This is a grand masterpiece with rich decor. The main piece is made of tempera wood and it measures 1.70 x 1.70 meters.
On the block of Turks and Caicos, we can see the Gavari Crucifixion also
known as the Crucifixion of Mond (Picture 4). Measuring 2.80 x 1.65 meters this is a 1503 work and is displayed in the London National Gallery. The painting is done in oil where the artist has started to establish his own style.
In 1503, having been influenced not only by Perugino but also by his own innovations, the young Raphael adroitly painted the Maria Conestabile (Picture 5). This is a small-size work, 18cm in diameter,
which was sold for 310,000 francs by his owner, Count Scipione Conestabile della Staffa, who found himself in a difficult financial situation, in 1869. Ever since the piece has belonged to the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg in Russia.
The Coronation of Mary (Retample Oddi) (Picture 6) is an oil painting of 1502-04, measuring 2.67 x 1,63 meters and belongs to the Vatican. As an artistic style it belongs to the Perugino style. Mary and Christ flanked by cherubs appear to be in motion and are rendered very expressively. The classical spirit can be distinguished in the very small painting, 17×17 cm, known as “The Knight’s Dream” (Picture 6), made between 1504 and 1505, which is situated in London. The figures accompanying the sleeping youth are Virtue and Love and are made with both simplicity and clarity. Along the same dimensions and period (1504-05) as the “Knight’s Dream”, the “Three Graces” (Picture 6) are to be found in the Museum of Count in Chantilly. In this case the figures are three-dimensional with classical analogies symbolizing immortality. In the 15 cents of Lesotho we can see the “The Wedding Ceremony of Holy Mary” (1.74×1.21 meters): a work of 1504. This is about an artistic Renaissance masterpiece, with vigorous structure, which is the pride of the Brera Gallery in Milan. This is young Raphael’s distinguished piece of art with meticulous attention to its structure.
In the portrait of Elizabeth Gozzanca (Picture 7), 53×38 cm, produced in 1504, we can see the wife of the Count of Urbino, Guidobaldo, an educated and refined woman. The painting belongs to Uficci of Florence. The “Young Holy Mary”, Kaouper is displayed in Washington Museum (Picture 7). With dimensions of 60×40, made in 1505, the work still resounds Perugino along with the innovations of Raphael. The faces are gentle conveying a sense of intimacy to the observer. It was named after the Kaouper family who owned the piece for 130 years. The great Retample Ansidli (2.74×1.52 meters) was produced in 1505 (Picture 7) where one may notice the emotions depicted on the faces along with their three-dimensional version. It is situated in London. Its technique is exceptional. Under its Florence arch there is an interesting landscape in great detail in the background. From St. Lucia we may see the “Mary of the Meadows” (Picture 7) or Belvedere which measures 1.13 x 0.88 cm. It is a 1506 piece of art and is to be found in Vienna. Its composition comprises elements of Leonardo while this piece is an eternal prototype honoring Holy Mary.
Around 1506, he created his self-portrait (47x33cm – Picture 8). This is situated in Ufficci gallery. This great painter reveals his melancholy while in his youth. In his “Madonna of the Great Duke”, 84×56 cm, (Picture 8), situated in Palazzo Pitti in Florence, a piece of 1506, we may distinguish the affectionate relationship between mother and child, as its name also denotes: due to the fact that its former owner, the Duke of Tuscany, Ferdinand III always used to carry the painting with him. “The Lady with the Unicorn” (65×51 cm) dates about the same period (Picture 8). It is part of the Borghese Gallery in Rome, while the unicorn acts as a symbol of purity. In 1506, he also created the “Holy Mary with the Goldfinch” held by two young children. The expressive figures, full of light, witness the influence of Leonardo. The painting belonged to the Nasi family until their house collapsed in 1547 and the crippled painting still survives. Today, it belongs to Ufficci Gallery.
In this Bulgarian stamp we notice the markedly rich bourgeois man, Agnolo Doni (65×45 cm – Picture 9), work of 1506-07, found in Palazzo Pitti. The all-pervasive, intelligent look of Doni, who had the rare opportunity for his name to be recorded in history because of that painting, dominates, while we are not in position to know about the actual ownership of many other surviving works of art of that period. The “Fair Gardener” (1.22 x 0.80 cm – Picture 9) comes from Canada , now part of the Louvre Museum, is a work of 1507: a simple composition, on surface, but with particular attention to the third dimension. The moving “Sepulchral Lamentation” (1.84×1.76cm – Picture 9) by Retample Baglioni was created in 1507. The painting secretly bears the message of the Resurrection and was stolen in 1608 by Schipio Borghrse from Perugia, where it previously belonged. Ever since it has been part of the Borghese Gallery, in Rome. The “Dumb” (Picture 9), work of 1507- 08, belongs to the Museum of Urbino and has been influenced by Leonardo. Her perfectly oval face emerges from the dark background and is staring at the observer. This is considered as a great portrayal achievement by Raphael.
From Hungary we may see the portrait of a man of 1508 (Picture 10). This is in the Budapest Museum and the unknown youth has a lively look while there is a wonderful Tuscany landscape spreading in the background. During the same year (1508), Raphael is called by the Pope, Julius II, in the Vatican and embarks on the renowned frescoes within the Papal palace. In the Vatican block, we can see “The Dispute over the Sacraments” fresco of 1508-09 (Picture 10) with enormous dimensions, as its base measures 7.70 meters. Among the individuals discussing the Truth of Christ real figures have been included. This technique has undoubtedly earned the favor of many an admirer. “The School of Athens” (Picture 10), work of 1509, is one of the most well-known frescoes around the world. It is a masterpiece both in terms of its conception and execution. Among the figures presented one may recognize Sodoma, Brabande, Leonardo, Michelangelo and other famous figures of the time. This is his best creation. In 1510 the “Cardinal’s Portrait” was created (Picture 10), which belongs to the Prado Museum in Madrid. The name of the figure illustrated remains unknown but this unofficial work is full of the social and existential dignity of the person depicted.
The creation of the “Mary of the Duke of Alba” or “The Holy Mary of the Dawn” emerging from the morning light in the landscape (Picture 11) goes back to 1511. This is a well-wrought round painting – 95 cm in diameter – that is distinguished by its fluidity in its composition and an almost invisible circular rhythm. It belonged to Hermitage, but in 1930 a great number of masterpieces were secretly sold under the blessings of Stalin. Thus 21 pieces reached the hands of the American tycoon Andrew Mellon who in his turn offered them to Washington Museum. “Madonna Alba” was one of them. It is worth noting that the Russians needed the money in order to buy tractors! The portrait of Tomasso (Fedra) Inghirami (Picture 11) was made in 1511-12 and is situated in Palazzo Pitti. Here Raphael succeeded in incorporating a kind of internal energy in his work along with an ethical force while, at the same time, he was not dealing with a beautiful model: in fact the model suffered from strabismus. Surely, Inghirami being a great intellectual, deserved that. The postcard (Picture 11) presents the portrait of Pope Julius II, Raphael’s patron. The power of his personality can be seen along with some degree of fatigue. This painting (1.08×0.080 meters) enjoyed such a success that the Popes who followed demanded to be depicted in the same manner. The piece belongs to the London National Gallery. On the Gibraltar postage stamp (Picture 11), work of 1511-12, we may see “Madonna Folignio”. The commissioner is shown on his knees in the foreground. The work is renowned for its artistic landscape by Raphael.
The great fresco of Galatia was made in 1512 (2.95×2.25cm – Picture 12) in the villa of Farnesina in Rome. Agostino Chiggi, a very rich banker, was the owner of the place. The sense of movement, beauty and sensuality that are part of this fresco point to the fact that Raphael’s art had no limits regardless of the theme, being it religious or mythical, as in our case. The Holy Mary is depicted as lively and beautiful in the Holy Mary of Saint Sistine of Dresden or, better known, as “Madonna Sistine” of 1513 ( 2.65×1.96 meters – Picture 12). It is almost certain that his lover, Fornarina, posed as a model for the Holy Mary. On the left, there is the face of Julius II replacing that of Saint Sistine. The angels (Picture 12) in the foreground are universally known as they have been used in various different decor including any other conceivable artwork such as tapestries and Christmas tissues. The round picture of Holy Mary of 1513-14 (Picture 12 – 71cm in diameter) with the armchair comes from Lesotho and is to be found in Palazzo Pitti. This a well-known work of art distinguished by its movement, tenderness and power of expression.
In 1514, Raphael was appointed as the architect of Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome (Picture 13), as Brabande, who had offered so much to that artistic workshop had died (Picture 13). Baltassare Castiglione (Picture 13 – 0.82×0.67 cm), both an ambassador and an author, became one of the themes of Raphael in 1515. This is part of the Louvre Museum in Paris. Here the artist created an exceptional, psychological portrait. This painting is characterized by its simplicity along with its very expressive face revealing its inner world. The composition is full of serenity, culture and nobility. “La Velata” (Picture 13 – 0.82×0.60 cm), situated in Palazzo Pitti and painted in 1516, is a woman richly dressed and is allegedly the painter’s lover. The arrow that is covering her contributed to the very name of the painting. Raphael rendered her as an individual belonging to high society by stressing her delicate features.
In 1516, he also painted Cardinal Bernando Dovicci di Bibiena (Picture 14). He was a powerful man, who had a tendency towards a luxurious way of life including art and the authorship of comedies rather than religion. The new Pope, Leo X and Raphael’s patron was painted along with his nephews in 1518 (Picture 14). The painting belongs to Galleria Ufficci and measures 1.55×1.19 meters. It has a stately appearance with expensive material and objects interspersed within its magnificent figures. All three figures in the painting belong to the Medici family. The “Fornarina” of Palazzo Barberini (Picture 14), work of 1518-1519, shows Raphael’s lover, whom Chiggi had brought with him in his house (Farnesina-Galatia) so that the painter could spend some time with her, in order to help the artist finish his frescoes as there had already been a great delay due to his uncontrollable passion for her. His last work is the oblong “Transfiguration” (Picture 14 – 4.05×0.78 meters). This masterpiece of 1518-1520, which can be found in the Vatican, is full of movement along with warm and bright colors while it conveys the message of Resurrection through the light enveloping Christ. This painting was placed next to his coffin during his funeral, in 1520, at the age of only 38.
For more than 500 years, his Madonnas, along with those of Leonardo, have become eternal prototypes of beauty and have exerted a great influence on other artists as they bordered on perfection. He did not get on well with Michelangelo, however, there was always mutual respect in terms of artistic recognition. Almost all Raphael’s works bear the names of their previous owners or their depicted themes. The names do help towards the recognition and differentiation among his Madonnas: Alba Colona Sixtina and so on.
Postage stamps with Raphael have been issued by many countries around the globe with the exception of, mainly, Arabic ones. Only one postage stamp was dedicated to Raphael, in Greece, in 1978, without bearing his name on it! The stamp is actually dedicated to Aristotle!
The greatness of his name within the artistic pantheon is beyond dispute. He has left us with a wealth of extraordinary pieces, all done within his brief lifespan, escorted by his ingenious ideas that reveal themselves through his creations.
I hope you enjoy this artistic journey through philately. Rafael was one of the greatest artists of all times. The little paper stamps tribune him as much as they can. And they can do it … a lot!
KO for eCharta