Raphael in Florence and Rome
In about 1504 Raphael moved to Florence, then the most vibrant artistic center in Italy. Encountering the works of Leonardo and Michelangelo and the masters of the fifteenth century, Raphael began another phase of his artistic education: copying, adapting, and striving to equal the work of those artists. Florentine patrons commissioned him to paint portraits and devotional images of the Virgin and child. He also continued to travel, and in late 1508, at age twenty-five, he moved to Rome to work for Pope Julius II.
Once in Rome, Raphael soon assumed responsibility for the decoration of Pope Julius II's private library, the Stanza della Segnatura in the Vatican. His other frescoes there, and Michelangelo's contemporary work in the nearby Sistine Chapel, represent one of the most glorious moments in the history of Western art. During the 1510s, Raphael received a growing number of commissions and relied increasingly on teams of assistants to complete these projects. He also carried out work in the private chapels of Agostino Chigi, a wealthy financier, and was responsible for frescoes in the Villa Farnesina, Chigi's Roman villa. He made a series of large-scale preparatory drawings, or cartoons, for The Acts of the Apostles, a tapestry cycle in the Sistine Chapel, and created numerous designs for engravings.
Raphael died after a brief illness in 1520, having attained a position of almost complete artistic dominance in Rome. His two principal assistants, Giulio Romano and Gianfrancesco Penni, inherited his studio and completed the outstanding contracts that had been awarded during Raphael's lifetime. But the powerful artistic control that Raphael had exerted over his assistants came to an end, and the transformation of his style by a host of interpreters began.