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RAPHAEL is one of those extraordinary men who can gain little by a repetition of praise. No other painter has been so uniformly and so justly celebrated; the greatest masters now derive the estimation in which they are held, only in proportion as they approach to the perfection of his works; those who adopt him as a model, do not presume to equal him, and none can become good painters without a deep and acknowledged sense of the superiority of this unrivalled artist. This is the opinion of connoisseurs; but Raphael enjoys another advantage peculiar to himself, and which is not attached to the reputation of any other: his name is familiar even to the lower classes of the people, who fancy that every good picture is the production of Raphael; he is, perhaps, the only master with whom they are acquainted; and it must be confessed, that to those who are ambitious of any kind of glory, the voice of the people is not so unimportant a sanction as many affect to imagine.
The life of Raphael, unlike that of so many illustrious men, does not present those vicissitudes of good and evil fortune, which so much increase the interest excited by a man of genius. He was uniformly opulent and prosperous, and nature had bestowed on him its choicest gifts. He had a handsome figure, an engaging physiognomy, and a soothing and persuasive eloquence that conciliated and enforced every dictate of his mind. He possessed all the mild and amiable virtues; his candour, his modesty, and his disinterestedness, secured him the friendship of all who approached him. To the stings of professional jealousy he was a perfect stranger; and it
does not appear, that he was assailed by the envy or jealousy of others, if we except Michael Angelo, who, however, rendered him ample justice. But of the merit of M. Angelo, Raphael was so fully sensible, that he would often exclaim,-" I thank Heaven that I am born in the same age with that illustrious man!"
Duly to estimate the exalted talents of Raphael, it is only necessary briefly to sketch the events of his life-unhappily for himself and the world, of too short a duration.
He was born at Urbino, 150 miles from Rome, in 1483. His father, John Sanzio, himself an inferior painter, but a man of excellent judgment, soon foresaw what his son might become if placed in able hands. He placed him under the tuition of Perugino, who was then an artist of distinguished reputation, but who now enjoys no other fame than that of having been master to the first painter of the world. At first, Raphael copied the manner of Perugino; that is to say, he imitated nature with accuracy, but with stiffness. But though he soon surpassed his master, he felt that he yet knew but little, and eagerly repaired to Florence, to which he was attracted by the great fame of Michael Angelo and Leonardo da Vinci. An examination of their works disclosed to him new ideas, and a better method; their rivalship and disputes were useful to him, by the knowledge and talents which they displayed, and he soon began to paint in a higher style, though still inferior to that which he afterwards attained. Nor must it be omitted, to the praise of Raphael, that his good sense led him to seek information from every quarte; and the pictures of Masaccio, who died in 1443, and the advice of Bartolomeo of St. Mark, contributed not a little to his first improvements.