Raphael, like Michelangelo
and Leonardo da Vinci
, is one of the most famous artists of Italy's High Renaissance and one of the greatest influences in the history of Western art. Immensely talented, he first studied with his father and then as an assistant to the great master Pietro Vannucci, known as Perugino. Raphael (also known as Raffaello Sanzio) worked in Florence (1504) and earned a reputation as a productive and much-admired painter before going to Rome sometime after 1508. In Rome he was commissioned by Pope Julius II
to create the large-scale fresco The School of Athens
, as well as other decorative work at the Vatican. Raphael also took over as architect of St. Peter's after the death of Donato Bramante (1514), contributed ten tapestries to the Sistine Chapel and painted some of the most prized and reproduced holy pictures of the era, including The Sistine Madonna
. His work is often cited for its harmony and balance of composition, and his early death (on his 37th birthday) is considered by many experts to be one of the great tragedies of art history.