Raphael was born at Urbino in 1483 - his father, who died when Raphael was eleven, was a painter and poet, and Raphael's own talents were quickly spotted and developed by those charged with his care. At the age of seventeen he went to Perugia as the assistant of Perugino, and then the pursuit of artistic study led him to Florence, where he absorbed the works of the great masters, and applied himself with ardour to the study of anatomy and perspective. His reputation as a true master was growing steadily, and his sunny personality made him a great favourite in all circles. All he needed was a wider sphere where his talents might be displayed on a grander scale, and this came with a summons from Pope Julius II in 1508.
The rest of Raphael's life was devoted to the adornment of the Vatican with the most glorious paintings, reliefs and frescoes. A whole army of craftsmen, architects, sculptors, painters, engravers, mosaic-workers, wood carvers and artists grew around Raphael, the master-mind of the work. As time passed, they were engaged not only at the Vatican, but on churches, palaces and villas - Rome had never known such a burst of artistic activity. Raphael was so in demand, and so unable to refuse his devotees, that he drove himself to an early grave through overwork: he died on his thirty-eighth birthday (27th March, 1520) to the grief and consternation of the whole of Rome, from the Pope to the crowds on the street who broke into sobs and tears when they heard the sad news.