Raphael was not Perugino’s pupil, but Giovanni Santi’s

Giovanni Santi, Raphael‘s father,  was not a bad artist himself – see June Osborne’s book, Urbino, the story of a Renaissance City, by June Osborne: Frances Lincoln, 2003. (University of Chicago Press in the USA) which I referred to in my previous post. Although Giorgio Vasari in his “Lives of the Artists”described Santi as a “pittore non molto eccellente” (not a very distinguished painter), he added “uomo di buono ingegno e atto a indirizzare i figliuoli per quella buona via” (a man of good intelligence and capable of directing his sons along that good path).

The curators of the exhibition, “Raphael and Urbino” at the Galleria Nazionale delle Marche in the Palazzo Ducale in 2009, think that Raphael learnt his trade from his father and not from Perugino. They say  there is no evidence other than Vasari’s statement, in The Lives of the Artists, that Raphael studied under Perugino. Santi was quite the Renaissance man, being a poet as well as a painter. He wrote an epic poem in terza rima (same rhyme scheme as Dante’s Divina Commedia or Divine Comedy) in honour of his patron Guidobaldo’s father, “La Vita e Le Gesta di Federico di Montefeltro” (1482 -7) and, again according to the Urbino curators, was steeped in Renaissance culture.

Having read the introductory chapter to the catalogue of the (English) National Gallery’s  art exhibition, “Raphael from Urbino to Rome”,(London; National Gallery, 2004)  I can now offer a more nuanced account. Although it is unlikely that Raphael was ever apprenticed to the artist Perugino  or was his pupil, as Vasari tells the story, he probably did work with Perugino from about 1502-3. According to the helpful timeline in the exhibition catalogue, Raphael was documented as being in Perugia in 1503.

In fact, Raphael probably became familiar with Perugino’s work via his father Giovanni Santi, who knew and admired it, describing Perugino as a “divin pictore”  in his epic poem. The two artists may have got to know each other in Fano c1488, when they were both working for the church of Sta Maria Nuova. Perugino was painting  an “Annunciation” ( the Angel Gabriel tells Mary that she will become the mother of Jesus, from the Gospel of Luke ch 2. vv 26-38), and a “Virgin Enthroned with Saints“or “Sacra Conversazione”, (commissioned in 1488 and dated 1497),

Pietro Perugino: Annunciazione. Cat. no. 23 in...

Perugino’s Annunciation in the church of S Maria Nuova in Fano. Photo credit: Wikipedia.


Pietro Perugino: Pala di Fano (Madonna in tron...

Perugino’s Madonna Enthroned with Saints in the church of S Maria Nuova in Fano. Photo credit: Wikipedia.

while Giovanni was painting a “Visitation” (the Virgin Mary’s visit after the Annunciation to her cousin Elizabeth, pregnant with the future John the Baptist,  from the Gospel of Luke ch 1 vv 39-56).

Giovanni Santi. Visitation c1488-1490, Sta Maria Nuova, Fano. Thanks to the Ministero per i Beni e le Attivita Culturali.

Giovanni Santi. Visitation c1488-1490, Sta Maria Nuova, Fano. Thanks to the Ministero per i Beni e le Attivita Culturali.

About An Englishwoman in Italy

I have a holiday home in Corinaldo in the province of Ancona in the Marche region of Italy. I have been going there since 1993 and would like to share my love and experience of the area. I speak Italian. Ho una casa di villeggiatura a Corinaldo nella provincia di Ancona, Regione Marche. Frequento Corinaldo da 1993 e desidero condividere i miei affetto e esperienza della zona con gli altri. Gli italiani sono sinceramente invitati a correggere gli sbagli.
This entry was posted in Churches, Giovanni Santi, History of Art, Raphael, Religious art, Renaissance, Renaissance paintings, Urbino and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Raphael was not Perugino’s pupil, but Giovanni Santi’s

  1. Halina says:

    Oh how times have changed. In my experience sons seem “reluctant ” to acknowledge learning anything from their father. On the other hand, could that explain the “fuzziness” surrounding this bit of history? 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • alysb says:

      Aha! I’d never thought of it like that. So did Raphael put it about that he had learned his trade from the more famous Perugino? Of course the Urbinati would have known that wasn’t true, but who cared what a bunch of provincials from a has-been hill town thought?


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