Rome: Who was Raphael? The Artist, His World, and His Painting

This week we will meet Raphael. We’ll start in his birthplace and follow his travels and growth from a young orphan to an independent master. From Urbino, to Umbria, to Florence, and finally to Rome, we’ll see how his self-education prepared him for painting in the papal palace.

Watch the short videos provided in advance of the live discussion here: Who was Raphael? The Artist, His World, and His Painting

Read the event recap, watch the video, or listen to the podcast below.


  • The great quality we see in Renaissance art is partly due to the systematic exploitation of child labor (14:48 Rowland)
  • He’s lucky to be in the company of two of the greatest explainers of his era- one of them is named Egidio da Viterbo[…] he was famous as a preacher and what he did was try to bring the ideas of Plato into play with normal people. He’s probably in situations where he can talk to Raphael one-on-one. So some of what Rafael is getting is from this man who was really the most influential theologian of his day and the most popular preacher. (Rowland 17:00- 20:30)
  • The other man who is in constant contact with Raphael while he’s painting the school of Athens is Tommaso Inghirami, who is the greatest actor of Renaissance Rome. […] so Raphael could ask him about things and he’s not just going to get some boring disquisition. (Rowland 21:00 – 25:00)
  • I think that’s where he’s getting a lot of his information from, these two spectacularly dramatic performers (Rowland 26:00)
  • The question is how much did Raphael bring to the conversation? was he just the receptor or did he have anything to offer? we don’t really know. but when somebody paints something as influential and successful and sophisticated as what he painted, I think he’s more than just a brush, he has to bring something- it’s not his capacity to dig deep into those things, but to synthesize. He makes things easily understood by others. (Mayernick 26:00)
  • The school of Athens isn’t filled with blank slates of figures, they’re really people. so he has their same ability to bring things to life (Rowland 27:00)
  • Florence is an absolutely crucial stop in Raphael’s development and in the development of the whole artistic sensibility (Rowland 31:00)
  •  I think one of the reasons people thought he was so charming was that he was a good listener. You never really hear about what he was like, you hear that he was gentile and charming, and with the giant egos of the renaissance, I suspect that meant that he just sat quietly and just took it all in and processed it.  (Rowland 32:00)
  • what there was between Michelangelo and Raphael was competition. And Raphael being the younger one, probably thinks he has more to learn. (Rowland 36:45)
  • I think Raphael has this way of conveying peace and belonging that is universal. (Rowland 44:00)
  • Painting is a silent medium. Whatever it can express, it has to express in silence. The challenge for the artist is whether you represent things happening or human interactions that involve speaking and listening. so as much as there is talking going on in the school of Athens, it means that more than half are listening. It puts the viewer of the painting as “listeners”. When he’s painting someone who is listening, he is painting you, the viewer, in that place. (Mayernick 45:00 – 46:00)

View the discussion recorded on May 6, 2021, with Professor Ingrid Rowland about Raphael’s formation and what he may have known about the subjects he was asked to paint. Register to participate in future discussions.

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Art and HistoryReligion and PhilosophyDavid MayernikRome Global GatewayCollege of Arts & LettersNotre Dame Folk ChoirItalyIngrid RowlandRomeRichard PiccoloArtArt HistoryHistoryPhilosophySchool of Architecture