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Raphael in Tuscany

From Florence and Siena, on the trail of one of the most famous artists of the Renaissance

Born in Urbino in 1483, Raphael has been a painter and architect, one of the greatest artists of all time and among the greatest interpreters of the aesthetic concept of "Bello" (Beauty). His wonderful works have an unmistakable and innovative style, as it was their production, in structured workshops made up of numerous professional artists specialized in various disciplines.

What follows is a journey among the Tuscan places visited (and loved) by this famous Renaissance artist and the masters with whom he interacted.

  • 1.
    Raphael in Siena
  • 2.
    Raphael in Florence
  • 3.
    Raphael's works in Tuscany

Raphael in Siena

The Piccolomini Library
The Piccolomini Library - Credit: Alessandro Farese

Raphael went to Siena several times to visit his friend Pinturicchio, who also invited him to collaborate on the frescoes in the prestigious  Piccolomini Library in the Siena Cathedral. Although there is no certain evidence, it is thought that Raphael put hand to paper on the Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini leaves for Basilea, which today is in Florence’s Uffizi Galleries, in the Department of Prints and Drawings.

Raphael in Florence

The young Raphael arrived in Florence thanks to a letter of recommendation written by the daughter of the Duke of Montefeltro. At the beginning of the 1500s the city was experiencing a moment of incredible artistic and cultural vigour and energy, and here Raphael had the opportunity to encounter the techniques that Leonardo and Michelangelo were deploying. In 1504 Leonardo was working on the sketches for the Battle of Anghiari, while that very same summer Michelangelo’s David was hoisted in front of the Palazzo della Signoria.
In short, Raphael found himself surrounded by the greatest artists in history at the right time, in the right place.

Raphael stayed in Florence for four years or so, until 1508. During that time he produced portraits, sacred works and Madonnas, not least the Madonna of the Goldfinch and the Esterhazy Madonna.
Even if there is no information regarding where he lived or where his workshop was, it is easy to imagine the artist wandering the historic centre, around the Uffizi and the Palazzo della Signoria.

At the end of 1508, following an important commission received from Pope Julius II, Raphael left Florence abruptly to reach Rome.

Raphael's works in Tuscany

The Madonna of the Goldfinch, Raffaello
The Madonna of the Goldfinch, Raffaello

There are numerous works by Raphael preserved in Tuscany.

In Pisa, in the National Museum of the Royal Palace, there is a panel entitled Nicola da Tolentino and the hanged men.

The Uffizi in Florence preserves the Portrait of Elisabetta Gonzaga, the famous self-portrait, the aforementioned Madonna of the Goldfinch and the Portrait of Leo X with cardinals Giulio de' Medici and Luigi de' Rossi.

Finally, still in Florence, at the Palatine Gallery it is possible to admire the masterpieces of la Madonna del Granduca, La Gravida and the Portrait of Agnolo Doni.

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