Raphael, born in Urbino, son of the court painter Giovanni Santi, has always been famous. Until the late nineteenth century he was celebrated as the prime model for aspiring artists.
From 1500 to 1508 Raphael worked all over central Italy, in Perugia, Siena, and Florence. His work as a portraitist and painter of Madonnas, as well as his charm, brought him 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.
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 also a talented mathematician. 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. They shared an interest in creating geometrical, ordered compositions that refine and perfect the natural world. This display juxtaposes their pictures in celebration of their separate – but complimentary – routes to pictorial harmony.