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For centuries, Raphael (Raffaello Santi) was recognised as the supreme Italian Renaissance painter, more versatile than Michelangelo, and more productive than Leonardo.

He was born in the small city of Urbino in the Italian Marches, where his father Giovanni was court painter. Raphael must have begun his training there. Growing up, he would have known works by Mantegna, Uccello, Piero della Francesca and Signorelli. His earliest paintings were also greatly influenced by Perugino.

From 1500 – when he became an independent master – until 1508, Raphael worked throughout central Italy, particularly in Florence. He became a noted portraitist and painter of Madonnas. This, and his personal charm, brought him early fame. 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. He died in Rome in 1520, aged only 37.