An apprentice in the workshop

Vasari says that Raphael eventually had a workshop of fifty pupils and assistants, many of whom later became significant artists in their own right. This was arguably the largest workshop team assembled under any single old master painter, and much higher than the norm. They included established masters from other parts of Italy, probably working with their own teams as sub-contractors, as well as pupils and journeymen. We have very little evidence of the internal working arrangements of the workshop, apart from the works of art themselves, which are often very difficult to assign to a particular hand.

The most important figures were Giulio Romano, a young pupil from Rome (only about twenty-one at Raphael’s death), and Gianfrancesco Penni, already a Florentine master. They were left many of Raphael’s drawings and other possessions, and to some extent continued the workshop after Raphael’s death. Penni did not achieve a personal reputation equal to Giulio’s, as after Raphael’s death he became Giulio’s less-than-equal collaborator in turn for much of his subsequent career. Perino del Vaga, already a master, and Polidoro da Caravaggio, who was supposedly promoted from a labourer carrying building materials on the site, also became notable painters in their own right. Polidoro’s partner, Maturino da Firenze, has, like Penni, been overshadowed in subsequent reputation by his partner. Giovanni da Udine had a more independent status, and was responsible for the decorative stucco work and grotesques surrounding the main frescoes. Most of the artists were later scattered, and some killed, by the violent Sack of Rome in 1527. This did however contribute to the diffusion of versions of Raphael’s style around Italy and beyond.

Vasari emphasises that Raphael ran a very harmonious and efficient workshop, and had extraordinary skill in smoothing over troubles and arguments with both patrons and his assistants—a contrast with the stormy pattern of Michelangelo’s relationships with both. However though both Penni and Giulio were sufficiently skilled that distinguishing between their hands and that of Raphael himself is still sometimes difficult, there is no doubt that many of Raphael’s later wall-paintings, and probably some of his easel paintings, are more notable for their design than their execution. Many of his portraits, if in good condition, show his brilliance in the detailed handling of paint right up to the end of his life.

Other pupils or assistants include Raffaellino del Colle, Andrea Sabbatini, Bartolommeo Ramenghi, Pellegrino Aretusi, Vincenzo Tamagni, Battista Dossi, Tommaso Vincidor, Timoteo Viti (the Urbino painter), and the sculptor and architect Lorenzetto (Giulio’s brother-in-law). The printmakers and architects in Raphael’s circle are discussed below. It has been claimed the Flemish Bernard van Orley worked for Raphael for a time, and Luca Penni, brother of Gianfrancesco and later a member of the First School of Fontainebleau, may have been a member of the team.

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