Raphael, born Raffaello Santi in 1483, has been admired for his mastery of the art of drawing since his lifetime. During the Renaissance, theorists considered drawing to be the foundation of all the visual arts. Most of Raphael's drawings were made as preparatory studies for wall paintings, altarpieces, tapestries, engravings, and works of decorative art. Ranging from quick sketches to large-scale works (cartoons), these studies reveal the process by which Raphael created his lucid compositions and formulated the poses and expressions of individual figures. Although only thirty-seven years old when he died in 1520, his work had a profound and far-reaching influence not only in his own time but for centuries to come.
Raphael spent his youth collaborating with other artists, and in his later years he controlled large workshops. Raphael and His Circle: Drawings from Windsor Castle, brings together his drawings with those of his principal masters, Giovanni Santi and Pietro Perugino, and three of his assistants, Giulio Romano, Perino del Vaga, and Polidoro da Caravaggio. Several of the old master drawings now at Windsor were in England by the seventeenth century and may have entered the royal collection under King Charles II. The majority, however, were bought in Italy in the 1760s by agents acting for King George III.
Raphael's Masters and His Early Years
Raphael was born in 1483 in Urbino, seventy miles east of Florence. During his childhood, he would have been exposed to the artistic activity centered around the court of the dukes of Montefeltro in Urbino. Raphael received his first training from his father, Giovanni Santi, a painter and poet. After his father's death in 1494, Raphael traveled extensively and worked with several masters, including the dominant Umbrian painter Pietro Perugino.