Raphael, born in Urbino, son of the court painter Giovanni Santi, has always been famous. Until the late 19th century he was celebrated as the prime model for aspiring artists. Raphael’s work as a portraitist and painter of Madonnas, as well as his charm, brought him fame.
From 1500 to 1508 Raphael was active all over central Italy, in Siena, Florence and Perugia. There, he worked alongside Perugino, who was once described as a ‘divine painter’ by Raphael’s father. In 1508 Raphael was called to Rome, to work for Pope Julius II. Here he evolved into an artist of universal talents, as successful as an architect and designer as a painter.
As a young man, Raphael had been inspired by another central Italian painter with equally wide interests – Piero della Francesca. Piero, from the small Tuscan town of Borgo Sansepolcro, was a talented mathematician. It is thought that Raphael, Perugino and Luca Signorelli all looked to Piero’s geometrical, ordered compositions that refine and perfect the natural world. Like Raphael, he worked for some of the most powerful men in Italy – noble courts, powerful merchants, popes and their entourages. His reputation, however, fell into obscurity after his death.
Today, Piero della Francesca and Raphael are two of the most admired of Renaissance Italian painters. This display juxtaposes their pictures in celebration of their separate – but complimentary – routes to pictorial harmony.