HomeBlogLifePrivate life and death of Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino, known as Raphael
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Private life and death of Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino, known as Raphael
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Jul 10, 2018 / 0 comments

From 1517 until his death, Raphael lived in the Palazzo Caprini in the Borgo, in rather grand style in a palace designed by Bramante. He never married, but in 1514 became engaged to Maria Bibbiena, Cardinal Medici Bibbiena’s niece; he seems to have been talked into this by his friend the Cardinal, and his lack of enthusiasm seems to be shown by the marriage not having taken place before she died in 1520. He is said to have had many affairs, but a permanent fixture in his life in Rome was “La Fornarina”, Margherita Luti, the daughter of a baker (fornaro) named Francesco Luti from Siena who lived at Via del Governo Vecchio. He was made a “Groom of the Chamber” of the Pope, which gave him status at court and an additional income, and also a knight of the Papal Order of the Golden Spur. Vasari claims he had toyed with the ambition of becoming a Cardinal, perhaps after some encouragement from Leo, which also may account for his delaying his marriage.

Raphael’s premature death on Good Friday (April 6, 1520), which was possibly his 37th birthday, was due to unclear causes, with several possibilities raised by historians. Vasari also says that Raphael had also been born on a Good Friday, which in 1483 fell on March 28.

Whatever the cause, in his acute illness, which lasted fifteen days, Raphael was composed enough to confess his sins, receive the last rites, and to put his affairs in order. He dictated his will, in which he left sufficient funds for his mistress’s care, entrusted to his loyal servant Baviera, and left most of his studio contents to Giulio Romano and Penni. At his request, Raphael was buried in the Pantheon.

His funeral was extremely grand, attended by large crowds. The inscription in his marble sarcophagus, an elegiac distich written by Pietro Bembo, reads: “Ille hic est Raffael, timuit quo sospite vinci, rerum magna parens et moriente mori”, meaning: “Here lies that famous Raphael by whom Nature feared to be conquered while he lived, and when he was dying, feared herself to die.”

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