Notes of Lessons: Picture Study, Class III

Notes of Lessons: Picture Study, Class III

[We have thought that it might be of use to our readers (in their own families) to publish from month to month during the current year, Notes of Lessons prepared by students of the House of Education for the pupils of the Practising School. We should like to say, however, that such a Lesson is never given as a tour de force, but is always an illustration or an expansion of some part of the children’s regular studies (in the Parents’ Review School), some passage in one or other of their school books.—Ed.]

Subject: Picture Talk • Group: Art • Class III • Time 30 minutes

By G. Fellowes
The Parents’ Review, 1909, pp. 633-634


I. To interest pupils in the art of Raphael.

II. To stimulate their power of perception of the depth of feeling and meaning in the works of great painters.

III. To give an idea of the enthusiasm for art which pervaded the period into which Raphael was born.


Step I.—Some facts about Raphael and the times into which he was born.

Raphael Sanzio, born on Good Friday, 1483, at Urbino, amidst the grandeur of the Apennine Mountains and the warm glow of Mediterranean colouring.

At this period Italy was divided into a great many States, ruled over by Princes and Dukes, such as are referred to in Shakespeare’s plays. They held courts of great splendour and were devoted patrons of art in times of peace, as they were knightly warriors when quarrels and disputes caused them to fight against rival States.

The “Renaissance,” a great re-awakening, was inspiring the Italians with a great love of “beauty” and “learning,” and such men as the Duke of Urbinotook pleasure in entertaining men of the highest culture in their palaces. They also delighted in having these palaces adorned with magnificent paintings, done by the greatest artists. (Read an extract describing a “réunion” at Urbino.)

Raphael’s father, Giovanni Santi, was a painter much respected by the Duke Guidobaldo. He was first instructed by his father, who early perceived his talent, and made arrangements (which were carried out after his death) for the young Raphael to go to Perrugino at the age of twelve. Raphael remained eight years assiduously working in Perugino’s studio, but perhaps performed less of the usual duties of an artist-apprentice (those of grinding colour, making tracings, and enlarging), on account of the training he had already received at Urbino. He was very persevering and took great account of all the opportunities for listening to the discussions of intellectual men which came in his way.

A visit to Florence when he was about twenty-one proved an eventful time in his life. He then came in contact with Greek art (show picture of some Greek sculptures), and met such great men as Bartolomeo, Ghirlandajo, and saw works of da Vinci and Michael Angelo. A broader horizon seemed to open up before him and his mind became filled with new and bold ideas. He later returned to Florence, and carried with him a letter of introduction from the sister of the Duke of Urbino to Soderini. He was much admired for his courtly manners and for his wonderfully harmonious temperament.

When commanded by the Pope Julius II. to decorate certain halls of the Vatican, he must have found excellent occasion for putting to use the learning he had acquired, for at this time he had no assistance in point of correctness of detail in carrying out his allegorical compositions. Also the acquaintance he had with the culture and refinement of the Urbino Court, would stand him in good stead, when he was summoned to the atmosphere of magnificence of the Vatican during the life of Julius II., and again when Leo X. reigned there.

He died at the age of thirty-seven in Rome, where he had taken up his residence and was superintending works of research.

Step II.—Get pupils to tell what they know about Raphael, and the influences which came into his life.

Step III.—Show to pupils the “Sistine Madonna.” Draw their attention to the religious thought of the age. The numerous convents and monasteries would require religious compositions, and all homes were adorned with a picture of the “Madonna.”

Raphael’s conception, so grand in its noble simplicity, stript of any extravagance or affectation revealing only great thoughts expressed by form of exquisite beauty. (Contrast with be-jewelled “Madonna” of Crevelli.) Such dignity, yet tenderness in the pose; the far-seeing expression of the Infant Christ, seems to foretell the awful responsibility which He shall bear.

Colouring and Type of Face. It is said that a great artist can only paint that with which he is and long has been familiar with. The features are clearly those of an Italian. Raphael could express all that was in the soul, and reject the marring marks of passion, vanity or other defects in a countenance.

Influence of Greek art. Seen in the graceful draping and flowing folds and perfection of harmony.

Step IV.—Let pupils describe picture and give some idea of its features by drawing it.