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Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino, generally known as just Raphael, was one of the three most celebrated masters of the High Renaissance – next to Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. Just as his full name states, Raphael was born in Urbino, Italy. Although the date of birth is not precise, historians know it was around March or April of 1483. He followed in his father’s footsteps – Giovanni Santi, who was a court painter – and became a painter himself, as well as an architect.
The Renaissance was one of the most influential cultural movement of the Western civilization and lasted for roughly 300 years, beginning at around the year 1300. Painters, architects, poets, and philosophers were reconnected to the philosophy of the Ancient Greek civilization. But this thirst for Classical ways of thinking didn’t emerge without reason – there was a tremendous economic influence which had a direct impact on the art world. The Medici family was powerful, and in 1469, Lorenzo de Medici took over the family bank in Florence, Italy. He was an incredibly ambitious man that spent a great part of his fortune investing in what he valued most: wisdom, truth and, mostly, beauty. Lorenzo became the main patron for the greatest philosophers who were dedicated to the study of Greek philosophy, as well as the master artists of the time, including Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli, and Michelangelo. Today it is known that the Medici had a clear vision of what Renaissance art and philosophy should be, believing that art had the primary function of promoting serenity, compassion, and education.
Raphael traveled to Florence around 1504, and to other locations to study and work with art. While in Florence, he became inspired by Leonardo da Vinci who was about thirty years older than him. It is believed that Perugino was Raphael’s mentor, as they worked together. Michelangelo, who was eight years older than Raphael, had a disliking to da Vinci and eventually developed the same feelings for Raphael as well. In 1504, Raphael also concluded one of his masterpieces entitled The Marriage of the Virgin which tells the Catholic story of how Joseph was chosen to marry the Virgin Mary. The way the artist used the perspective on the floor tiles, as well as the reference to Classical Greek architecture in the background are common elements of the Renaissance paintings. This theme has been portrayed in paintings before him, but Raphael was able to absorb the aesthetic influences around him and adapt it in his way, searching to obtain harmony and balance in his compositions.
In 1508, Raphael moved to Rome, where he was invited to take on a commission to paint the Stanza della Segnatura – the library of Pope Julius II. The artist concluded a series of frescos, including La Disputa, and Parnassus, which represented theology and literature, respectfully. These paintings were possibly influenced by Michelangelo’s masterpiece painted on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. The most famous mural from the Pope’s commission must be The School of Athens, painted from about 1510 to 1511. Raphael died in the year 1520, at 37 while in Rome, Italy.