Raphael – Master Draftsman

Of the great giants of Italian Renaissance art – Michelangelo, Leonardo, Raphael, Titian, etc – it would be pretty foolish to choose a favorite or the “best”, as they were all gifted masters who took Western art to awe-inspiring heights. But I will go ahead and be foolish (it won’t be the first time!) and pick a favorite. Raphael is my guy. I am planted firmly in his camp. In fact, I have a bit of an obsession with him.

I should warn you that no credible, intelligent, or respectable explanation of my Raphael obsession is forthcoming. None whatsoever. Rather, my love for the “Prince of Painters” is based on shallow and frivolous reasons. First of all, Raphael was one of the first artists to use female models for his female figures. What a novel idea! But really, it was common practice of the day to use men as models for all figures, male and female. Michelangelo was a glaring example of that absurd practice. So in my opinion, Raphael deserves huge props for breaking that custom. That scores major points in my book. But as a female artist’s model  I guess I’m a little biased.

Raphael is also an appealing figure as a individual. Unlike the grouchy, temperamental Michelangelo, Raphael is said to have been very charming, outgoing, youthful, and handsome. His exploits and womanizing ways add to his reputation which I have blogged about in the past. This is another stupid reason for my Raphael obsession. So yeah, I admit it. If I had been one Raphael’s models I would have gone to bed with him too 😉

Lastly, Raphael was left-handed, another cool thing about him! And another weird obsession of mine that I blogged about. Ok, I think I’ve done enough internal linking to my own posts. Now it’s just getting obnoxious 😆

Raphael has been singled out from the group by people much more credible and serious than me, and for much more substantial reasons than mere Casanova sex appeal. Many art historians have praised Raphael’s art for its exceptional balance and elegance, its graceful aesthetic appeal, and his avoidance of the excesses to which his rival Michelangelo was sometimes prone. He is also considered one of the finest draftsmen who has ever lived.

I originally intended for this post to be about Raphael’s stunning Vatican fresco, The Parnassus. But I became so caught up looking at images of his drawings that I decided to post them instead. We’ll examine the Parnassus another time.

They say that the truest examples of an artist’s skill, technique, and ability are seen not in their paintings but in their drawings. I’m inclined to believe that. Drawings are the bare bones of the artistic process. In them you can see the artist’s hand at work, their practice, their methods, and their visual thought process. Drawings are also more intimate. Looking at them makes you feel close to the artist in a way.

These are all studies and sketches, variously in chalk, pen and ink. I’m not even going to add commentary because there’s no need. With regard  to forms, lines, volume, technique, etc, the drawings speak for themselves. My personal favorite is the last one.

11 thoughts on “Raphael – Master Draftsman

  1. Jennifer says:

    One really has to watch the spam filter – would you believe that after several years of following Museworthy, my spam filter suddenly sent this post to Junk! Fortunately I always check anything unread that appears there and it’s been rescued, read and enjoyed! Yes, lovely drawings – very expressive and fluid. Interesting to know that Raphael was the first to use female models!

    • artmodel says:


      I have been having the same problem lately! My spam filter is grabbing things that aren’t spam. I’m checking it every day now.

      Glad you like the drawings. Raphael is cool 🙂


  2. I had no idea about the female models issue! That’s wild. Who doesn’t like to be around women? Apart from grouchy Michael A. I guess. Anyhow, I have a funny Raphael story. Some years ago, a friend of mine called me out of the blue and said, “You know, I really hate Raphael. His paintings are just insipid. I don’t care what his innovations in pictorial space were, he’s stupid.” And I thought, “Wow, that’s a lot of vitriol.” Then *another* friend of mine called me, a couple days later – didn’t even know the first guy – and said, “Dani, I’ve been thinking about it, and I think Raphael is profoundly overrated.”

    The third I-hate-Raphael call, I decided maybe I should sit down and think about Raphael again. So I went through his work and I thought, “You know what? They’ve got a point. These paintings are pretty silly.”

    Aside – I love his drawings. Just not so much the paintings.

    Anyway, after *that*, friend #4 randomly calls me – this is all over the course of about one week – and she says, “I love Raphael.”

    And we’ve occasionally argued Raphael ever since.

    Weird, huh?

  3. Andrew says:

    Some spam filters have no taste. 😉

  4. Dave Rudin says:

    Yes, it is pretty foolish to decide who was the best artist of the Italian Renaissance, as that implies an objective choice, but there’s nothing wrong with choosing one’s own personal subjective favorite(s). Raphael is definitely one of my favorites, too, for both his paintings and his drawings.

    I agree that drawings are special as they seem to give us a more personal connection to the artist than a painting does. Nonetheless, not all drawings are small. I commented on your earlier posts about how I saw “La Fornarina” and the rooms painted by Raphael at the Villa Farnesina in Rome and the frescos in the Vatican last year, but I was also fortunate enough to see – at a museum in Milan – Raphael’s cartoons (i.e. drawings) that he used as the basis for one of those large Vatican works.

    These drawings are huge – about the same size as the paintings – and they alone justify a trip to Milan. They’re the only works of art in a large, mostly dark room, covering one wall with the lights highlighting them. A series of nice, cushion chairs – not merely backless benches – allow one to sit there and contemplate the magnificent sight. I was not able to see da Vinci’s last summer, sadly, while in Milan, but I still got to see something special in these drawings. If you love Raphael, you’ve got to go and see them some day.

    • artmodel says:


      I want to go to Milan now! The cartoons are incredible and I can imagine what’s it’s like to view them in person. I read about Raphael’s process creating the cartoons and it’s fascinating.

      I really enjoyed your comments, Dave, thank you!


  5. H Niyazi says:

    Lovely post Claudia!

    I too am fascinated by Raphael – for me he represents the perfect synthesis of art and the scientific method: learn, emulate, surpass. These distinct phases can be so clearly seen as he progressed from Perugino’s apprentice, to his Florentine exposure to Da Vinci and then his Roman Experience – particularly his trip to the newly discovered remnants of Nero’s palace.

    For those who also share a fascination with Raphael, I have hosted/reviewed some great documentaries and written some posts which you can see here:


    Kind Regards – and keep up the super work Claudia!
    H Niyazi
    Three Pipe Problem

    • artmodel says:

      H Niyazi,

      Thanks for the link. I didn’t know about your blog. It’s great!.

      Nice to see that we share a love of Raphael. There’s so much to discuss about him, particularly his different phases like you mentioned. I will be posting more Raphael that’s for sure.

      Thanks for commenting!


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