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.