Raphael was born in Urbino, Italy in 1483. He first studied under his father, Giovanni Sanzio, who was a poet and painter at the court of Urbino. He probably studied under Timoteo Viti, who was in Urbino in 1495. Although through the ages people tried to credit him with an illustrious ancestry, his family couldn’t boast a drop of noble blood. Raphael was left on his own at a fairly early age. His father died of malaria when Raphael was only eleven. He left Urbino about 1500 and it is likely that he went at once to serve as an assistant to Perugino at Perugia.

In 1504 he went to Florence, where he spent the next four years of his life, and in 1508 he visited Rome in answer to a summons by Pope Julius II. After the death of Julius II he became the architect of St. Peter’s under Leo X. Almost all of Raphael’s Madonnas were painted in Florence between his twenty-first and twenty-fifth years. He completed, with Michelangelo and daVinci, the great triumvirate of Renaissance art.

Raphael never married. Stories about the women he was involved with are sparse, though dramatic. There was a nameless girl in Urbino whom his uncle had selected to be his wife; it was known that the Cardinal in Portico wished for him to marry his niece. Neither plan succeeded. There were several other women, some of them with money and property. It could be argued that he never married because he was too involved in his work. There was another woman named Margherita who it was claimed Raphael passionately loved for the twelve years he lived and worked in Rome. But there is no assurance that any of these stories are true.

Raphael died in 1520 at the age of thirty-seven.