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Raphael (April 6, or is it March 28?, 1483 – April 6, 1520), he of the sickly smiling Madonna and Child paintings, the School of Athens fresco at the Vatican and the Galatea slap-on work, hasn't aged so well as regards his artistic reputation. No one cites him as an influence except the purveyors of the chocolate box school of artists whose work can often be found staring down at you from Catholic Church cathedrals. Raphael lived well and died in his late 30s, just before he would have lost his hair and developed a paunch.
Raphael became exceedingly filthy rich, successful and the toast of Renaissance Rome. He must have been insufferable to all those who crossed his path: Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo could rare agree on anything but both hated the 'boy' with intense passion, especially Michelangelo who was rumoured to have been turned down for a bit of man-on-man action with the young pretender when they both worked on the Sistine Chapel. He could have become a saint except in the manner of his death - a heart attack after some rigorous in-studio rogering of his favourite mistress Margherita Luti.
Born Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino, 'Raphe' grew up with angelic kiss-me-quick hair curls and a smile that got him a lot of work - and clients amongst the cassock lifters in the Roman Catholic Church. These were the days before Martin Luther's banging rude jokes on church doors and at time when the Papacy was in a full, florid corruption that so angered the sober sided Christians that they would later smash up churches in the manner of Gaiseric the Vandal a thousand years earlier.
Blessed with Italian pretty boy genes and a smeary palette, Raphael soon showed he knew how to get work. This essentially meant from two sources: The Catholic Church or rich italians who wanted to boast of their achievements and attractions with portraits. Others wanted suitable cultural pagan myths illustrated for bedroom stimulation. In reply, Raphael just gave them a lot of Madonnas with Jesus sitting pretty on her lap.
In around 1500, young Raphael moved to Florence. There he first met Leonardo di Vinci, then work as a coder for the Duke of Milan. Raphael called him 'granddad' and drew him as an old man with a long white beard and wrinkly skin. A painting of his was latter mis-attributed and thought to be a painting of Santa Claus without his hat and was destroyed. Raphael also met Michelangelo. Only a few years older than Raphael, the sexually ambidextrous artist had his younger contemporary pose nude for him for 'drawing practise'. At least that was the official version. The young Raphael was considered to be unpolished then and spoke in a yokel version of Italian which tickled the Florentines everytime he opened his mouth. So he moved to Rome.
Raphael's work eventually got him noticed by Pope Julius II. Julius liked to exercise both spiritual authority and actual authority in the Catholic Church by wearing armour and riding into battle. He also needed some decoration work and chose Raphael to get plastering frescos in the pope's very private quarters. Some of it was the usual Christian iconography but stories relate that the pope (a man of the world and women's bed chambers) had painted a particular saucy Mary Magdelene's doing something with Jesus's feet that certainly wasn't in any known Gospel story. Alas, this work was later destroyed by later more po-faced Popes.
When Julius died, his successor Pope Leo X continued to employ Raphael. This meant more bedroom work and a lot of male saints wearing very little but a few loincloths. Leo, being born a Medici was also a bread buttered on both sides type of man and would often hang over Raphael to get 'close and personal'. He also had Raphael kitted out as a cardinal if the artist chose to drop his paint brush and become a priest. Raphael turned that idea politely down and said he wasn't yet ready for celibacy.
So busy was Raphael by now, that he had employed an army of artists to work in his studio. Raphael would get the commission, draw a few cartoons and then give these to his workers to finish off as paintings - only to return to add a few goey eyes and noses in the finished product. These sugar coated works later gave him the reputation as a Master of the Syrupy Portrait and provide the Catholic church the boilerplate for later, official illustrations of biblical stories.
By now Raphael was already a Renaissance Superstar. He wasn't a surly bastard like Michelangelo and would have done all the TV, press and radio interviews if he had lived in the 20th century. No one seems to have had a bad word about him, and when it did eventually happen, it was from a group of 19th century English artists who claimed Raphael 'killed' the Renaissance with his soppy, sloppy work. They called themselves the 'Pre-Raphaelites' to make their painterly point but ended up producing even more 'yuk' work than the great master. And also had a lot less fun.
In amongst his painting commitments and general sucking up to important people in Rome, Raphael led a busy sex life. Perhaps days working on holier-than-thou art work made him seek to boost up his testosterone levels elsewhere. Since Raphael still had his hair and teeth, he had no shortage of partners. But add to that a healthy appetite for wine and food - Raphael was a rigorous rogerer.
His favourite partner was Margherita Luti. He called her 'La Fornicatrice'. She was a baker's daughter and used yeast extract to mix into aphrodisiacs that worked like a 16th century Viagra. Raphael responded by painting her half naked and tickling her left breast. The story goes that after finishing this particular painting and placing his brushes down, Raphael and Margherita jumped into bed for a particularly energetic sexual encounter which killed him when his ticker exploded. Coitus interruptus, artist interruptus but his chocolate box Madonnas were carried on being painted for the next 400 years.
A bloody turtle. All that and the kids think he is a yank brat in a turtle outfit. Psssh!