For centuries Raphael has been recognised as the supreme High Renaissance painter, more versatile than Michelangelo and more prolific than their older contemporary Leonardo. Though he died at 37, Raphael's example as a paragon of classicism dominated the academic tradition of European painting until the mid-19th century.
Raphael (Raffaello Santi) was born in Urbino where his father, Giovanni Santi, was court painter. He almost certainly began his training there and must have known works by Mantegna, Uccello, and Piero della Francesca from an early age. His earliest paintings were also greatly influenced by Perugino. From 1500 - when he became an independent master - to 1508 he worked throughout central Italy, particularly Florence, where he became a noted portraitist and painter of Madonnas.
In 1508, at the age of 25, he was called to the court of Pope Julius II to help with the redecoration of the papal apartments. In Rome he evolved as a portraitist, and became one of the greatest of all history painters.
He remained in Rome for the rest of his life and in 1514, on the death of Bramante, he was appointed architect in charge of St Peter's.