Raphael Sanzio da Urbino, an Italian painter and architect, was the youngest of the three giants of the High Renaissance, after Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. After his intial works under the training of the Umbrian master, Pietro Perugino, he started to slowly assimilate the Florentine style of art, though he always stayed away from excess of detail. At a time when Leonardo da Vinci had completed his Mona Lisa and Michelangelo his David,he came to be greatly influenced by both their techniques while at the same time developing his own style. His clear, serene compositions, grace of his figures, the unique quality of noble sweetness of his Madonnas make his works quite distinctive from other artists.
This painting Madonna of the Meadow shows how he has mastered the sfumato technique in the subtle modelling of forms. He has used a pyramidal composition and the contrapposto pose for the Madonna.
St. Catherine leaning on her broken wheel, also in the Contrapposto pose similar to one in da Vinci`s Leda and the Swan:
His Triumph of Galatea is a complex composition involving a number of figures, but they are not separate, unconnected individual entities but form an inseperable whole. The nymph, Galatea, rides a shell chariot drawn by two dolphins. The three flying angels at the top form a semi-circle pointing their arrows at Galatea`s beautiful, upturned face. Another angel, at the bottom of the fresco, though not highlighted, mimics the pose of the topmost angel in a reverse manner. A triton abducts a nymph at the left side, and two other tritons blow shell trumpets at both edges facing away from the centre.
Raphael completed his masterpiece Sistine Madonna, shortly before his death (he lived a short life of only 37 years). The Madonna holding her Child is flanked on either side by Pope Sixtus and St. Barbara and standing on clouds in front of a background of shadowy cherubs. The two cherubs at the bottom look completely natural and have an air of curiosity about them. The expressions of grief and horror on the gentle faces of the Virgin and Child and the pointing finger of the Pope Sixtus were not understood for a long time. In many churches, there used to be a Crucifix opposite to the altarpiece, the Madonna and Child are not looking at the viewer but reacting to the image of the Crucification.
His last painting, The Transfiguration, was done just before his death and completed by his pupil. It shows a marked influence of both Mannerism and Baroque style, which were just then developing. The poses are stylised and exaggerated as in Mannerism and there is a strong light-dark contrast as in Chiaroscuro.