Print this page Share

Raphael: A Passionate Life

ISBN: 978-0-7456-4411-0
260 pages
July 2012, Polity
Raphael: A Passionate Life (0745644112) cover image


Craving pleasure as well as knowledge, Raphael Sanzio was quick to realize that his talent would only be truly appreciated in the liberal, carefree and extravagantly sensual atmosphere of Rome during its golden age under Julius II and Leo X.

Arriving in the city in 1508 at the age of twenty-five, he was entranced and seduced by life at the papal court and within a few months had emerged as the most brilliant star in its intellectual firmament. His art achieved a natural grace that was totally uninhibited and free from subjection. His death, at just thirty-seven, plunged the city into the kind of despair that follows the passing of an esteemed and much loved prince.

In this major new biography Antonio Forcellino retraces the meteoric arc of Raphael’s career by re-examining contemporary documents and accounts and interpreting the artist’s works with the eye of an expert art restorer. Raphael’s paintings are vividly described and placed in their historical context. Forcellino analyses Raphael’s techniques for producing the large frescos for which he is so famous, examines his working practices and his organization of what was a new kind of artistic workshop, and shows how his female portraits expressed and conveyed a new attitude to women.

This rich and nuanced account casts aside the misconceptions passed on by those critics who persistently tried to undermine Raphael’s mythical status, enabling one of the greatest artists of all time to re-emerge fully as both man and artist.
See More

Table of Contents


1 Giovanni s Son
1 A Well-To-Do Household
2 A Sophisticated Court
3 Home and Workshop
4 Assistants and Masters
5 A Precocious Master

2 From Urbino to Umbria
1 The First Test
2 Recognition
3 Challenging the Masters
4 Turbulent Landscapes
5 The End of the Terror

3 The Florentine Period
1 In the City of Titans
2 A New World
3 The Way Up
4 Chronicle of a Tragedy
5 A Sudden Departure

4 In Rome
1 The Half-Hidden Ruins
2 From Chalices to Helmets
3 The War of Images
4 The Rise to Primacy
5 The School of Raphael

5. The Pope and his Banker
1 The Pope s Beard
2 The Stanza of Heliodorus
3 Through the Streets of Rome
4 The Pope s Banker
5 Amor Vincit Omnia
6 Venus Emerges from the Water
7 Death of a Warrior Pope

6 The Years of Triumph

1 A New Era
2 One Long Party
3 Serving the Dream
4 Raven Black Hair and Eyes
5 State Portraits

7 The Discovery of Architecture
1 Devout Women
2 Storming the Fortress
3 The Flight of Icarus
4 Private Pleasures
5 Between The Tiber and Monte Mario

8 A New Artist

1 The Inaccessible Palace
2 A Web of Jealousies
3 Venus Returns
4 Vila Madama
5 The Star that Fell from Heaven

See More

Author Information

Antonio Forcellino is one of the world’s leading authorities on Michelangelo and an expert art historian and restorer. He has been involved in the restoration of numerous masterpieces, including Michelangelo’s Moses.
See More

The Wiley Advantage

  • A major new biography on one of the greatest artists of all time, Raphael Sanzio, written by a leading Renaissance expert.
  • Retraces Raphael’s career by re-examining contemporary documents and accounts and interpreting the artist’s works with the eye of an expert restorer.
  • Analyzes Raphael’s techniques for producing his famous large frescos as well as his working practices.
  • Highly readable and well illustrated with 4-colour reproductions of Raphael’s greatest works.
  • This book will be essential reading for historians of art and the Renaissance and of great interest to any reader keen to know more about one the greatest artists of the Italian Renaissance.
See More


"A brilliant and lyrical biography ... The masterful quality of Forcellino’s account lies not only in the beauty of its language, translated impeccably from Italian into English, but in the seamlessness and self-assurance with which he himself works across northern Italy, its paintings, its politics."
The Spectator

"An excellent introduction to the workshop of the Renaissance artist, and to the careful and patient techniques employed in the making of timeless art works … Forcellino has done a very creditable service in his re-examination of the life of an artist who, more than any other, embodied the spirit of the Italian Renaissance."
Irish Examiner

"Antonio Forcellino has now celebrated Raphael's life and career by writing this ebullient book, elegantly translated by Lucinda Byatt ... [Forcellino] is ingenious and fastidious in describing Raphael's works, and his book will give pleasure to those coming to them for the first time; it even highlights a few things connoisseurs may have missed."
Literary Review

"Written in a lively and entertaining style, ForcellinoÉ demonstrates his skills as a passionate and consummate storyteller revealing the life of a challenging and unique artist who introduced a new conception of Renaissance art combining sublimity and sensuality, within an Italian epoch of violence, wealth and eroticism."
European Journal of History

"A detailed biography that explains Raphael's achievements during his short life, while also showing how his social skills and affable temperament helped him to advance his career … This informative book is also a rich treasury of information about the artistic developments and techniques of the period."
Historical Novel Society

"Forcellino seeks to liberate his subject from later cultural and art-historical associations. Challenging post-Romantic conventions of the solitary genius, he presents Raphael as fully engaged with his society: a man whose eroticism and talent for friendship flowed naturally into his art ... Forcellino's Raphael is a lover, not a fighter."
The Art Newspaper

"Written in his usual lively style, Forcellino's new book combines fast-moving narrative, a vivid portrait of Raphael the man, and a perceptive analysis of his art."
Peter Burke, University of Cambridge

"The last century saw the development of the legend that depicts the life of the artist as one of torment and desperation: Raphael demolishes every trace of this romantic myth and demonstrates on the contrary that it is in fact complete happiness and the gratification of desires that can lead to the conquering of the highest peaks of creativity."
Corriere della Sera

"Beyond simply recounting the biographical journey, Antonio Forcellino also seamlessly incorporates analyses of Raphael’s works in this lively study. Painter, architect, set designer: all facets of Raphael are discussed with the consummate art of the storyteller."
Tout pour les femmes

See More

Related Titles

Back to Top