Raffaello Sanzio

or, "Raphael"

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The Italian Raffaello Sanzio (1483-1520), or "Raphael", is one of the most famous painters from the Rennaissance period. Along with Michelangelo and da Vinci, he is considered one of the three "greats" of the time.  Nevertheless, in spite of being known for the beauty of his paintings, he especially gave great importance to his drawings, whether as preparatory work for future canvases, or works of art in themselves meant to be published as prints.  Indeed, it is not surprising that the first great work of art from his hand is a self portrait drawn when he was a teenager, right.

His artistic journey is often divided into three periods:

- the first one where he lived in Urbino, learning skills from the painter Perugio;

"Self-Portrait at Age 14", Raphael

- the second one, starting around 1504, where, living mostly in Florence, he traveled and discovered new techniques - the importance of this period is that he learned a great deal from Leonardo da Vinci's style, without ever really setting aside his master Perugio;

- the third period, starting in 1508 and ending with his death in 1520, is when, as a confirmed artist, he lived in Rome to paint commissions for the Vatican.

In his lifetime Raffaello Sanzio created drawings and sketches that were of great importance. Today, there are around 400 that have survived the passage of time. An interesting record of his influences over the years, he had certain favorite media.

What Did Raphael Draw With?

Raffaello Sanzio cherished silverpoint and ink (below, right), using these media throughout his lifetime. 

These techniques are especially evident in most of his early sketches and in various studies of human subjects.

He used black chalk (below, left) when making more developed drawings as studies for his future paintings. 

This media offered him the advantage of more complete effects of light and shadow, essential to an artist of Raphael's stature.

Study for "The Knight's Dream", Raphael ( Raffaello Sanzio )

Studies for Madonna and Child, Raphael (1507).


Red chalk, also called sanguine, was used by Raphael as a direct influence from Leonardo da Vinci, who was also a big fan of that media. To the contrary of black chalk, it allowed him to make much more precise and complex drawings, especially in the case of the many studies he did for larger and more developed works to come.

Study for Sistine Chapel tapestries (1514), Raphael ( Raffaello Sanzio)

"Galatea", engraving after Raphael


Raphael would produce a myriad of sketches before drawing studies; this done, he would lay the studies out before him and start working on the major lines of the work of art he had in mind, taking something from each preparatory drawing towards producing the whole.  This way of proceeding meant he was able to consider a variety of poses and other details before committing to the final composition.  Towards the end of his life he sent these drawings off to Brussel for publishing as actual prints.


Part of what sets Raffaello Sanzio's drawings apart is the very great attentiveness and sensitivity with which he drew. His human figures are a model of anatomical study; not surprising, then, that he was one of the first artists to employ women as models, in a day and age where men were usually used instead.

Study for the Three Graces, Raphael


Even if they are not as famous as his paintings, Raffaello Sanzio's drawings are an interesting trace of his development as an artist - and of his impact on others.  An example would be this engraving entitled "The Judgement of Paris", which served to inspire...




...19th century French painter Edouard Manet for his Déjeuner sur l'Herbe, three and a half centuries years later!


Born on Good Friday, by Raphael


1. St George fighting the dragon (around 1503-1505) is a drawing done by Raffaello in preperation for the painting of the same name that was to be done in 1503. Nevertheless, two paintings of this scene were done by the artist : the first one ressembles this study, the second one differs is many ways (the position of St. George and the weapon he is using against the dragon).

2. Lucretia (around 1515) is a drawing done by Raffaello with pen and brown ink, depicting the Roman queen Lucretia which is considered, because of the way she commited suicide to avoid dishonour, as a model of virtue. In this drawing, because of the pose of the woman, it is possible to see the influence that the Antique roman statues had on Raffaello.

3. The Madonna and the Pomergranate (around 1510) is a drawing done by Raffaello who therefore places himself in the tradition of painters such as Botticelli who had already depicted that subject (in 1487). The pomergranate was at the time symbol for hope, health because of it's good seeds, and eternal lige because it is believed to be linked with the Ressurection of Christ.

5. The Study for God the Father (1515) is a drawing of Raffaello representing God in a position indicating rath and power. In this drawing, the artist not only diplays his great talent for drawing with sanguine, but also, he show how much of an influence the art of Michelangelo was to him.

5. The Study for the head of an apostle-apostle (1519-1520) is a drawing done by Raffaello in preperation of his painting of "The Transfiguration". Once more, in this drawing, he shoes how much he has learnt from Michelangelo in all these years passed in Rome, painting for the Popes. A recent sale of this piece of art was done with the highest bitter buying it for around 10 millions Pounds.

6. The Study of heads and hands of apostles (around 1517) is one of Raffaello's many studies realized in preperation for his famous painting "The Transfiguration". Although this drawing is supposed by some to represent St-John and St-Peter (because of their age), nothing is less certain if one takes a look at the actual painting.

7. The Hanno elephant (1514) is a drawing of the elephant Hanno, present from the king of Portugal to the Pope Leo X, arriving in Rome in 1514. The animal is believed to have had clear skin and the problem that Raphael met with this kind of drawing is the lack of any element of comparison.


8. The Study for the school of Athens (around 1518) is a drawing done by Raffaello, using sanguine in order to creat more precise lines and better shadowing. Although it is one of the most complete studies he did before the painting, many differences can still be spoted with the masterpiece of 1519.

9. The Drawing of a young man carring an old man on his back (1514) is a painting done by Raffaello using sanguine and in which he demonstrates formidably the contrast between the two characters, not only by the way the different muscles are drawn, but also by the way the shadowing is different on the two figures.

Go from "Raffaello Sanzio or 'Raphael' " to "Leonardo da Vinci Drawings".

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