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From the trinity of High Renaissance art

April 6, On This Day


Together with Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, Italian painter and architect Raphael forms the traditional trinity of great masters of the High Renaissance, a historically iconic period for classical Western art. Interestingly he was both born on and died on April 6, and lived a short 37 years from 1483 to 1520 (although some historians peg his birth date as March 28).


Despite his short stint, Raphael has a huge body of celebrated art work, many of which are today housed in the Vatican Palace. He was a fully trained “master” by the age of 17, and was at the height of his powers just 20 years thereafter, working as an architect, when he died. Some say it was from syphilis, while others say it was likely from a pulmonary disease that was misdiagnosed and mistreated.

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His work is admired for its clarity of form, ease of composition, and visual achievement of the Neoplatonic ideal of human grandeur. Mannerism, beginning at the time of his death, and later the Baroque, took art “in a direction totally opposed” to Raphael’s qualities. Noted German art historian Walter Friedländer said that “with Raphael’s death, classic art – the High Renaissance – subsided”.