Raphael Sanzio - Private life
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Raphael's secret love
Was Raphael Married?

"I found my Psyche"
Raphael never married, but in 1514 became engaged to Maria Bibbiena, Cardinal Medici Bibbiena’s niece. Cardinal Bernardo had a niece, Maria Bibbiena, who wanted to marry Raphael. But he wasn’t very enthusiastic about this marriage. The artist felt that he could not refuse, being placed in a difficult position due to the cardinal’s enormous influence. Yet it presented him with a problem – because Raphael was already secretly in love with the daughter of a baker, Margherita Luti, a woman often referred to as La Fornarina (the (female) Baker). He accepted the role as Maria Bibbiena’s fiance, but continually postponed the marriage, so that it had still not taken place when he died. Maria in the end died in 1520 as a maiden.

Raphael and La Fornarina
Francesco Gandolfi
Raphael and La Fornarina

Raphael was handsome as a god. Young, but already famous and very beautiful, Rafael was engaged in painting the walls of the central gallery of the Fornesino Palace in Rome. He already wrote two frescoes: "Three Graces" and "Galatea." But for the third - "Cupid and Psyche" - could not find the model in any way.

And one day, while walking in the park, he saw a young, charming, angelike Marguerite. Raphael was not deprived of the attention of women. He was so handsome and attractive that the passers-by of the necks curled up after him. He was loved by the best beautiful ladies of the time.

But he forgot everyone when he saw her. He exclaimed: "I found my Psyche." And he asked the 17-year-old beauty to pose for him. At the end of the day, he gave her a gold necklace.

And the next morning he came to her father, the baker, and gave him a few gold pieces so that he would let his daughter work for him. And the more he spent time with her, the more he fell in love. Finally he paid Luti's father three thousand gold and took his beloved to Rome.

In Rome, Rafael put a bunch of servants to her, showered him with gifts and dresses. Margarita capricious, demanding more and more attention and dresses. She just took Rafael captive. He did not have time to work, and in the meantime the customer, nobleman of great honor Agostino Chigi, urgently demanded the completion of the work. He singled out in his palace a separate room for lovers, only for Raphael to hurry.

Meanwhile, ex-boyfriend of Margaret Shepherd Tomaso arrived at the palace. He sent her a furious letter with threats. She sought the help of nobleman asked him to not only cool the ardor of Man, and imprison him in a monastery. Chigi fulfilled her request. In gratitude, the girl immediately gave herself to him, while Rafael worked practically in the next room.


Then she seduced the young apprentice Raphael. His disciples found out about this and summoned the boy to a duel. To them, this betrayal seemed insulting. The guy died of blood loss. But "little Fornarina" (as she called Raphael) did not even think about the consequences of her love. She already found the next victim.

Raphael watched silently as she returned in the mornings drunk. And he did not say anything. He suffered so much that he could not always get out of bed in the morning. Raphael lost weight, he almost did not eat. Doctors diagnosed "a sharp exhaustion of the body." He continued to portray Fornarina as a model for his paintings. He knew about her treason. I knew that she had become one of Rome's most dissolute courtesans. Rafael tried to fix it, waiting for her to come to its senses, to change, that his love will win. But the weary heart of the master could not stand it. It stopped April 6, 1520. He was only 37 years old. And he could write many more pictures. He was buried in the Pantheon, among the great men of Italy.

The pupils of the artist vowed to take revenge on Margarita. And she ran to her father. There she was met by the shepherd Tomaso, to whom she broke life - he spent five years in prison. Seeing him, Margarita found nothing better than to bare her shoulders and chest, trying to seduce the former groom. But he threw a handful of earth into it and left. Margarita Luti finished her life in the monastery.

Raffaello meets Fornarina
Filippo Bigioli
1517 Palazzo Caprini, Raffaello meets Fornarina
1830 ca, Palazzo Caprini

Art sleuth uncovers clue to secret Raphael marriage
by Barbara McMahon

  The small pearl brooch in Raphael's masterpiece, La Fornarina, was the clue, and researchers believe that it has unlocked one of the mysteries of the Renaissance. For centuries it has been thought that the woman, Margherita Luti, a baker's daughter from Siena, was the artist's mistress. He was, after all, engaged to the niece of a powerful Vatican cardinal. However, a new study by an Italian art historian, Maurizio Bernardelli Curuz, suggests that Raphael and Luti had already married in a clandestine ceremony, and that - fearful of a scandal - the artist took the secret to his grave. Officially, he died a bachelor at the age of 37.  

"It was an impossible love affair," said Mr Bernardelli Curuz. "It is hard to overstate Raphael's status in Rome. He was a superstar. The distance separating them was like that which today would separate George Clooney and his cleaner."

La Fornarina is one of the painter's most suggestive portraits. Half-clothed and with a coy expression that has been likened to the Mona Lisa, the dark-eyed beauty has a diaphanous veil over her stomach and suggestively cups her left breast. Mr Bernardelli Curuz, editor of Stile magazine in Milan, which conducted a year's research into the romantic riddle, says a string of nuptial allegories in the portrait point to the secret marriage.

The biggest clue, he says, is the brooch pinned on to the fashionable silk turban of La Fornarina, the kind of expensive bauble a woman would wear on her wedding day. The pearl, also included in another portrait of a woman, La Donna Velata, reinforces the theory that the sitter's name was Margherita - a Latin word for pearl - and not Maria Bibbiena, the artist's intended bride. There are other matrimonial hints, according to the art expert, from the blue ribbon on the woman's arm bearing Raphael's name - an unusual way to sign a portrait - to a ring on her left hand that was later covered up by Raphael's students.

Cesare Mussini
(Berlin, June 5, 1804 – Florence, May 24, 1879)
Raphael Undressing La Fornarina
for the first time

1837, oil in canvas
Dimensions: 184.5 cm x 248 cm

  Historical information: The painting commissioned by the artist of the Marquis Ala Ponzoni in 1837 entered the Academy collection directly due to the same Marquis (1889). Made in 1837, he was immediately exhibited at the Florentine Academy and, next year, in Brera, where he received decisions favorable to the greater accessibility of the cultural environment to accept without debate the issue of disappointed women. In 1861, the painting was again exhibited at the first Italian national exhibition. The painting became so popular that right now they were made of lithographs made by Girolamo Tobin for the printing of Stefani from Florence, the Onofrio design of Diofebi for the limousque Barozzi in Venice, and in 1841, even Mussini, he executed a copy of "and half the truth" for Count Colovrat.  
Cesare Mussini Raphael Undressing La Fornarina

Raphael et la Fornarina


In addition, the portrait is painted with background foliage of myrtle and quince, symbols of love, fecundity and fidelity. Such allegories, says Mr Bernardelli Curuz, "may seem artificial to us, but these were everyday games at the Renaissance courts. "At least until the 18th century, the allegorical side of painting was extremely important. It was Impressionism that dampened our ability to read a painting like a book."

La Fornarina has long fascinated admirers of Raphael's work. In 1814, the French artist Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres painted La Fornarina sitting on the artist's knee. A century later, Picasso portrayed their trysts in a series of explicit drawings. The novelist Honore de Balzac also mentioned the couple. However, Raphael's students made efforts to draw a veil over Luti's existence, according to Mr Bernardelli Curuz. The painting was unfinished when the artist died and was completed by his students who covered up the bushes and the tell-tale ring.

They were uncovered during a recent cleaning. "At the time of his death, Raphael's school was painting the Sala di Constantino in the Vatican, and losing that commission could have meant bankruptcy," he said.
"He had left La Fornarina unfinished, and the students began to fret about the landscape, the ring, anything that could tie it to the marriage." To silence the rumours, Raphael's students placed a plaque on his tomb in memory of his fiancee, Bibbiena - and Luti was sent away. Four months after the artist's death in 1520, the convent of Sant'Apollonia in Rome's Trastevere quarter registered the arrival of "widow Margherita", daughter of a Siena baker.

Mr Bernardelli Curuz said he had found evidence to support his theory from contemporary documents and x-rays of the painting. "Of course this is not just about the pearl, nor is it just about the documents," he said. "The absolute certainty comes from the way everything fits together. But the pearl was what tipped us off."
© McMahon, Barbara. "Art sleuth uncovers clue to secret Raphael marriage." The Guardian. Accessed 19 Jul. 2012.

Engraving in the etching by
Louis-Jean-Désiré Delaistre (Paris, 1800-1871),
after Devéria

Raphaël et la Fornarina
circa 1840


Raphael’s secret love, hidden in his paintings
by Karin Maraney

  The art world has always been influenced by collectors and powerful personalities who entrust to artists the task of committing their favorite images and values to a painting or sculpture, with the aim of celebrating their prestige and becoming immortal. In this way, many people over the centuries have hoped to leave a sign of their lives, one that will be remembered long after their deaths.  

This was particularly true during past times when talented artists were dependent on patronage, meaning that they had no choice but to satisfy the requests of those who were powerful during their times. These people were the ones with the financial ability and the desire to have their images or ideas immortalized through art.

Given that art is a personal matter for the artist, and that many artists prefer to use their creations to express something important to them, it should be no surprise that many of the artists who worked on commissions for the rich and powerful found secret ways to express their real feelings and beliefs in their paintings. In this way, they could create something which on a surface level represented what they had been requested to paint, but in fact held a whole separate world of symbols and declarations which would only be understandable to someone taking a closer look.

Master artist Raphael (Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino) (1483-1520) was a professional Italian painter and architect who was famous for his kindly nature, his relaxed attitude to court life and his considerable beauty – aside from his reputation for his able use of colors and his tremendous artistic talent. One of the more influential personalities of Raphael’s era was Cardinal Bernardo, a powerful man of the Church who commissioned art from Raphael on a regular basis.

Cardinal Bernardo had a niece, Maria Bibbiena, who wanted to marry Raphael. The artist felt that he could not refuse, being placed in a difficult position due to the cardinal’s enormous influence. Yet it presented him with a problem – because Raphael was already secretly in love with the daughter of a baker, Margherita Luti, a woman often referred to as La Fornarina (the (female) Baker). He accepted the role as Maria Bibbiena’s fiance, but continually postponed the marriage, so that it had still not taken place when he died.

The Betrothal of Raphael
Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres (1780–1867)
The Betrothal of Raphael
and the Niece of Cardinal Bibbiena

Oil on paper mounted on canvas, 1813-1814
Walters Art Museum, Baltimore

Click to enlage
La velata, or La donna velata
La velata, or La donna velata
("The woman with the veil"),
is one of the most famous portraits by
the Italian Renaissance painter Raphael.
Click to enlage
Fornarina - painting by Raphael,
depicting Fornarina
(Margherita (Margaret) Luti)
is believed that she was the mistress of artist.
Click to enlage


Raphael’s mistress was his favorite female model from 1508 onwards, and in fact the protagonist of some of Raphael’s most famous portraits:
La Fornarina and La Velata.

Raphael was not free to declare his love and commitment to her, so while he was Maria Bibbiena’s official fiancé, he kept hiding marriage vows and love symbols in his paintings, such as a myrtle bush, associated with love and marriage, a wedding ring (removed from La Velata and now only visible through scientific analysis), a bridal vest, and accessories decorated with Raphael’s name.

In addition, both portraits include pearls which the artist chose to decorate the hair of the sitter. The reason for this was likely because the word for ‘pearl’ was originally ‘Margarita’ – a clear reference to the name of his beloved.

  In Fornarina, in addition to the angelic face, Raphael attracted her large breasts. Since he bought a girl from his father for decent money at that time - 50 gold ducats, he considered the magnificent bust of the girl as his property. Strange as it may seem, Rafael did not want others to see his treasure. And drawing a beautiful Bunny, greatly reduced the size of her breasts.
It's no wonder that all of his role-players (including a beloved - like Zeus seduced Danai) revolved around the huge "rolls" of Fornarina. According to Italian historians, it was this amateur mammologist who invented then a new kind of sexual stimulation, which is now called "tits rape" (instead of the vagina male penis sexually attacks the female breast). And he indulged in this passion very passionately, obsessively and often.
And if you believe the evil contemporaries, just during the next "rape" Fornarina, who never refused him, a sexually-exhausted great artist and died at the age of only 37 years.
If this was true, then, presumably, Rafael died absolutely happy. In Italy, it was sacredly believed, and since then, the dead on the lovers' bed of men are seen off in the last way with the words: "He died like Raphael."

Due to Raphael’s premature death at 37, he could not complete what studies suggest was his last portrait of his favorite model. She herself decided to retire to a convent four months after his death, and history has lost sight of her after that time.

We can all still admire Raphael’s devotion to his Margherita and continue to search for the secret symbols in his paintings that will never stop declaring his commitment to his loved one. And if you enjoy this, perhaps you would like to start exploring what further surprises and hints are waiting to be discovered in the paintings of artists who were painting for commissions but managed to slip into the works references to their own personality and ideas!
© KARIN MARANEY, 2011. Agoraartgalleryblog - http://agoraartgalleryblog.com


Raffaello and Margarita Luti (Fornarina)
German painter of the nineteenth century
Raffaello and Margarita Luti on the background Castel Sant'Angelo

Oil on canvas, 1813-1814
170x137 sm


The story of Raffaello and Fornarina was one of the myths of nineteenth-century classicism, both in France and Germany.
In this painting, Raffaello captures the beauty of Fornarina, who, like Susanna, is getting wet.

The theme of Raffaello and Fornarina was often dealt with in the most iconic painter's iconography in the studio while painting his portrait and the woman embraces him affectionately, as in J.A. Dominique Ingres (1780-1867) already in the collection of the painter Müller (Raphael et art français), Jules Sully (1814-1900) already in Nimes, while this version, with the painter discovering Fornarina at the bath, is never depicted. There are also some engravings, such as the Fornarina assisi between the plants of Achille Devéria (1800-1857), lithography, and that of Francesco Garnier (active in the Salon from 1824 to 1850), reproducing a painting by Picot of 1822, in which the two lovers are portrayed outdoors under the Cupid statue with the landscape of Rome and St. Peter in the background. Raffaello's effigy recalls here the usual one with the beret on his head. But our painting, more than French, would be stylistically close, albeit behind, to examples of German painters in Rome, close to the Nazarenes, such as FW Schadow (1788-1862), JES von Leonardshoff (1795-1822), JVH Schnorr von Carolsfeld (1794-1872).

Was Raphael Married?
by Melissa Snell
Raphael and La Fornarina

Samuel William Reynolds Jr.
Raphael and La Fornarina

Litography, 1826
Castle of Versailles

He was a Renaissance celebrity, known not only for his superb artistic talent but for his personal charm. Very publicly engaged to Maria Bibbiena, the niece of a powerful cardinal, scholars believed him to have had a mistress by the name of Margherita Luti, the daughter of a Sienese baker. Marriage to a woman of such a lowly social status would hardly have helped his career; general public knowledge of such a liaison could have damaged his reputation.

But recent research conducted by Italian art historian Maurizio Bernardelli Curuz suggests that Raphael Sanzio may have followed his heart and secretly married Margherita Luti.


Important clues to the relationship can be found in the recently-restored "Fornarina," the portrait of a seductive beauty begun in 1516 and left unfinished by Raphael. Half-clothed and smiling suggestively, the subject wears a ribbon on her left arm bearing Raphael's name. Pinned to her turban is a pearl and the meaning of "Margherita" is "pearl." X-rays taken during restoration reveal in the background quince and myrtle bushes -- symbols of fertility and fidelity. And on her left hand was a ring, the existence of which was painted out, probably by Raphael's students after the master's death.

All these symbols would have been extraordinarily meaningful to the average Renaissance viewer.
To anyone who understood the symbolism, the portrait practically shouts "this is my beautiful wife Margherita and I love her."

In addition to the portrait, Curuz has uncovered documentary evidence that Raphael and Margherita were married in a secret ceremony. Curuz also believes Margherita to be the subject of "La Donna Velata" (the Veiled Lady), which one contemporary noted was the painting of the woman Raphael "loved until he died."

It had been theorized that Raphael didn't paint the Fornarina at all, and that instead it is the work of one of his pupils. Curuz and his associates now believe that Raphael's pupils deliberately obscured the nuptial symbolism to protect his reputation and continue their own work at the Sala di Constantino in the Vatican, the loss of which would have bankrupted them. To reinforce the pretense, Raphael's students placed a plaque on his tomb in memory of his fiancee, Bibbiena.

And Margherita Luti (Sanzio)? Four months after Raphael's death, the "widow Margherita" is recorded as arriving at the convent of Sant'Apollonia in Rome.
From: thoughtco.com

Rome, from the Vatican
Joseph Mallord William Turner
Rome, from the Vatican. Raffaelle, Accompanied by La Fornarina
Preparing his Pictures for the Decoration of the Loggia

Oil on canvas, 1820
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