AMONG the marvellous tales of the Arabian Nights,
there is a story told of a band of robbers who, by
whispering certain magic words, were able to open
the door of a secret cave where treasures of gold and
silver and precious jewels lay hid. Now, although
the day of such delightful marvels is past and gone,
yet there still remains a certain magic in some
names which is able to open the secret doors of the
hidden haunts of beauty and delight.
For most people the very name of 'Raphael' is
like the 'Open Sesame' of the robber chief in the
old story. In a moment a door seems to open out
of the commonplace everyday world, and through it
they see a stretch of fair sweet country. There
their eyes rest upon gentle, dark-eyed Madonnas,
who smile down lovingly upon the heavenly Child,
playing at her side or resting in her arms. The
little St. John is also there, companion of the Infant
Christ; rosy, round-limbed children both, half
human and half divine. And standing in the background
are a crowd of grave, quiet figures, each one
alive with interest, while over all there is a glow of
intense vivid colour.
DRAWING BY RAPHAEL
We know but little of the everyday life of this
great artist. When we hear his name, it is of his
 different pictures that we think at once, for they
are world-famous. We almost forget the man as
we gaze at his work.
It was in the little village of Urbino, in Umbria,
that Raphael was born. His father was a painter
called Giovanni Santi, and from him Raphael
inherited his love of Art. His mother, Magia, was a
sweet, gracious woman, and the little Raphael was
like her in character and beauty. It seemed as if
the boy had received every good gift that Nature
could bestow. He had a lovely oval face, and soft
dark eyes that shone with a beauty that was more
of heaven than earth, and told of a soul which was as
pure and lovely as his face. Above all, he had the
gift of making every one love him, so that his should
have been a happy sunshiny life.
But no one can ever escape trouble, and when
Raphael was only eight years old, the first cloud
overspread his sky. His mother died, and soon
after his father married again.
The new mother was very young, and did not
care much for children, but Raphael did not mind
that as long as he could be with his father. But
three years later a blacker cloud arose and blotted
out the sunshine from his life, for his father too died,
and left him all alone.
The boy had loved his father dearly, and it had
been his great delight to be with him in the studio,
to learn to grind and mix the colours and watch
those wonderful pictures grow from day to day.
But now all was changed. The quiet studio rang
with angry voices, and the peaceful home was the
 scene of continual quarrelling. Who was to have
the money, and how were the Santi estates to be
divided? Stepmother and uncle wrangled from
morning until night, and no one gave a thought to
the child Raphael. It was only the money that
Then when it seemed that the boy's training was
going to be totally neglected, kindly help arrived.
Simone di Ciarla, brother of Raphael's own mother,
came to look after his little nephew, and ere long
carried him off from the noisy, quarrelsome household,
and took him to Perugia.
'Thou shalt have the best teaching in all Italy,'
said Simone as they walked through the streets of
the town. 'The great master to whose studio we
go, can hold his own even among the artists of
Florence. See that thou art diligent to learn all
that he can teach thee, so that thou mayest become
as great a painter as thy father.'
'Am I to be the pupil of the great Perugino?'
asked Raphael, his eyes shining with pleasure. 'I
have often heard my father speak of his marvellous
'We will see if he can take thee,' answered his
The boy's heart sunk. What if the master refused
to take him as a pupil? Must he return to idleness
and the place which was no longer home?
But soon his fears were set at rest. Perugino,
like every one else, felt the charm of that beautiful
face and gentle manner, and when he had seen some
drawings which the boy had done, he agreed readily
 that Raphael should enter the studio and become
Perugia had been passing through evil times
just before this. The two great parties of the Oddi
and Baglioni families were always at war together.
Whichever of them happened to be the stronger
held the city and drove out the other party, so that
the fighting never ceased either inside or outside
the gates. The peaceful country round about had
been laid waste and desolate. The peasants did
not dare go out to till their fields or prune their
olive-trees. Mothers were afraid to let their
little ones out of their sight, for hungry wolves
and other wild beasts prowled about the deserted
Then came a day when the outside party
managed to creep silently into the city, and the
most terrible fight of all began. So long and
fiercely did the battle rage that almost all the Oddi
were killed. Then for a time there was peace in
Perugia and all the country round.
So it happened that as soon as the people of
Perugia had time to think of other things besides
fighting, they began to wish that their town might
be put in order, and that the buildings which had
been injured during the struggles might be restored.
This was a good opportunity for peaceful men
like Perugino, for there was much work to be done,
and both he and his pupils were kept busy from
morning till night.
Of all his pupils, Perugino loved the young
 Raphael best. He saw at once that this was no
'He is my pupil now, but soon he will be my
master,' he used to say as he watched the boy at
So he taught him with all possible carefulness,
and was never tired of giving him good advice.
'Learn first of all to draw,' he would say, when
Raphael looked with longing eyes at the colours and
brushes of the master. 'Draw everything you see,
no matter what it is, but always draw and draw
again. The rest will follow; but if the knowledge
of drawing be lacking, nothing will afterwards
succeed. Keep always at hand a sketch-book, and
draw therein carefully every manner of thing that
meets thy eye.'
Raphael never forgot the good advice of his
master. He was never without a sketch-book, and
his drawings now are almost as interesting as his
great pictures, for they show the first thought that
came into his mind, before the picture was composed.
So the years passed on, and Raphael learned all
that the master could teach him. At first his
pictures were so like Perugino's, that it was difficult
to know whether they were the work of the master
or the pupil.
But the quiet days at Perugia soon came to an
end, and Perugino went back to Florence. For
some time Raphael worked at different places near
Perugia, and then followed his master to the City
of Flowers, where every artist longed to go. Though
 he was still but a young man, the world had already
begun to notice his work, and Florence gladly
welcomed a new artist.
It was just at that time that Leonardo da Vinci's
fame was at its height, and when Raphael was
shown some of the great man's work, he was filled
with awe and wonder. The genius of Leonardo
held him spellbound.
'It is what I have dreamed of in my dreams,' he
said. 'Oh that I might learn his secret!'
Little by little the new ideas sunk into his heart,
and the pictures he began to paint were no longer
like those of his old master Perugino, but seemed to
breathe some new spirit.
It was always so with Raphael. He seemed to
be able to gather the best from every one, just as the
bee goes from flower to flower and gathers its sweetness
into one golden honeycomb. Only the genius
of Raphael made all that he touched his very own,
and the spirit of his pictures is unlike that of any
For many years after this he lived in Rome,
where now his greatest frescoes may be seen—
frescoes so varied and wonderful that many books
have been written about them.
There he first met Margarita, the young maiden
whom he loved all his life. It is her face which
looks down upon us from the picture of the Sistine
Madonna, perhaps the most famous Madonna that
ever was painted. The little room in the Dresden
Gallery where this picture now hangs seems almost
like a holy place, for surely there is something
 divine in that fair face. There she stands, the
Queen of Heaven, holding in her arms the Infant
Christ, with such a strange look of majesty and
sadness in her eyes as makes us realise that she was
indeed fit to be the Mother of our Lord.
But the picture which all children love best is one
in Florence called 'The Madonna of the Goldfinch.'
It is a picture of the Holy Family, the Infant
Jesus, His mother, and the little St. John. The
Christ Child is a dear little curly-headed baby, and
He stands at His mother's knee with one little bare
foot resting on hers. His hand is stretched out
protectingly over a yellow goldfinch which St. John,
a sturdy little figure clad in goatskins, has just
brought to Him. The baby face is full of tender
love and care for the little fluttering prisoner, and
His curved hand is held over its head to protect it.
'Do not hurt My bird,' He seems to say to the
eager St. John, 'for it belongs to Me and to My
These are only two of the many pictures which
Raphael painted. It is wonderful to think how
much work he did in his short life, for he died when
he was only thirty-seven. He had been at work at
St. Peter's, giving directions about some alterations,
and there he was seized by a severe chill, and in a
few days the news spread like wildfire through the
country that Raphael was dead.
It seemed almost as if it could not be true. He
had been so full of life and health, so eager for work,
such a living power among men.
But there he lay, beautiful in death as he had
 been in life, and over his head was hung the picture
of the 'Transfiguration,' on which he had been at
work, its colours yet wet, never to be finished by that
All Rome flocked to his funeral, and high and
low mourned his loss. But he left behind him a
fame which can never die, a name which through
all these four hundred years has never lost the magic
of its greatness.