Between 1499 and 1505 he made some of his masterpieces for the churches of Perugia and Città di Castello. These pieces are fundamental for his artistic education.
Vasari tells that Raphael arrived in Città di Castello with “some friends”. He was only seventeen when he signed in 1500 a contract as “magister” (it means that he joined a corporation of painters). The contract was for the Baronci Altarpiece of Saint Nicholas of Tolentino (Pala di San Nicola da Tolentino) in the church of Sant’Agostino. The painting was irreparably damaged by the earthquake that hit the city in 1789.
In Città di Castello he made two other altarpieces, the Gavari Crucifixion (Crocifissione Gavari) in the church of San Domenico and the Wedding of the Virgin (Sposalizio della Vergine) in the Albizzini chapel in the church of San Francesco.
The only Raphael’s painting still in Città di Castello is the Banner of the Holy Trinity (Gonfalone processionale) exhibited in the Pinacoteca Comunale. It represents on one side the Creation of Eve (Creazione di Eva) and on the other the Holy Trinity with Saints Roch and Sebastian (Trinità con i santi Rocco e Sebastiano).
The civic gallery also owns many pieces linked to Raphael’s stay in Umbria, for instance Luca Signorelli’s Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian (Martirio di san Sebastiano) from the church of San Domenico, was inspirational for the young Raphael.
There are copies of the Gavari Crucifixion and the Baronci Altarpiece made in the 18th and 19th centuries before the originals left the city.
In the museum are exhibited the altarpiece Ognissanti and the Magalotti Annunciation made by one of the first Raphael’s follower, Francesco Tifernate.
The collection testifies also the Raphael’s second influence in Umbria, around the second half of the 16th century, thanks to the presence of Raffaellino del Colle, of whom five altarpieces are preserved.
Around the 1502 Raphael moved from Città di Castello to Perugia. His stay in the city enables him to get in contact with the greatest artists of the time and also to visit the important monuments that were being built in central Italy. He bonded with another Umbrian painter, Bernardino di Betto, called Pintoricchio, he worked with him to the frescoes of the Libreria Piccolomini in the Siena Cathedral.
In Perugia, between 1502 and 1505, three altarpieces were commissioned to Raphael: the Colonna Altarpiece (Pala Colonna) for the church of Sant’Antonio da Padova, the Ansidei Altarpiece (Pala Ansidei) for the church of San Fiorenzo and the Oddi Altarpiece (Pala Oddi) and the Pala Baglioni (Deposizione Baglioni) for the church of San Francesco al Prato. The latter was completed when he was already in Florence in 1507.
Raphael became the favourite painter of the noble families of Perugia, like the Oddi, the Ansidei and the Baglioni. He succeeded so much that he is defined as the best painter of Perugia in the contract for his last commission in town: the Coronation of the Virgin (Incoronazione della Vergine) for the church of the nuns of Monteluce in 1505.
In Perugia, in addition to the five altarpieces, Raphael made many small size paintings for private worship. Some of these are the Madonna Conestabile, probably made for the nobleman Alfano Alfani, and the Madonna of the Pinks (Madonna dei garofani), perhaps for Maddalena Oddi.
Moreover, he made a big fresco for the chapel of the monastery di San Severo, portraying the Trinità con i Santi (Holy Trinity with Saints). This is the only painting of Raphael that remained in Perugia.
The decoration of the San Severo chapel was interrupted by Raphael when he left for Florence in 1505 and completed by Perugino in 1521. Here, Raphael showed to have reached his artistic maturity, departing from his master’s style. This was made possible also by the use of elements inspired by artists like Leonardo da Vinci and Fra Bartolomeo that he studied during his travels in Florence.
After the Umbrian period, Raphael, the “young prodigy”, was ready to leave Umbria and move to Florence, then Rome to open up to the world.