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An Artist's Legacy of Development

Updated: May 6, 2020

My thoughts and well wishes are with all those who are suffering from COVID-19 and those feeling the economic impacts and other effects of this pandemic. I also cannot say enough about the brave women and men in the healthcare profession, emergency responders and others working at the front lines in the face of this virus. Their dedication and steadfastness as they carry out their duties to those in need is nothing short of remarkable.

These are certainly unprecedented times in our history and the effects will definitely have an impact in our workplaces and culture going forward. The question is: How? I refer you to my March 31 blog on the Black Death and COVID-19 to see some of those questions. As I write this blog post, it is becoming more and more apparent that as we will re-integrate into the workplace, handshaking will probably become a thing of the past, physical distancing at work will be integrated, we will probably be required to wear masks for a period of time, the idea of shared or close/low paneled workstations will probably be re-thought and work-from-home may become more common. Time will tell how long these changes will last, but in the short-term these are some of the things you will most likely see in your workplace.

COVID-19 will certainly be on the forefront of everybody’s minds in the several months and years going forward and I will research and write about the changes and effects to our workplaces especially as we re-integrate in an effort to keep you informed. For this blog post, I want to focus on a man who had much suffering in his life, but made great contributions to society and culture in his own very short time on earth. In the short 37 years of his life, he was mentored by some of the greatest artists in Italy and he himself also developed and trained other artists who carried out his legacy by adopting his methods and continuing his workshop and major projects.

The famous architect and artist Raphael Sanzio was born on either March 28 or April 6, 1483 (there is some dispute on his actual date of birth) and died on April 6, 1520 at the young age of 37. While he lived a very short life, his contributions to the art and architecture world during the Renaissance period could probably equate to several life-times.

Raphael grew up in Umbria, but was left parentless at the age of 11. He was a contemporary and competitor of Michelangelo Buonarroti. Raphael, Michelangelo and Leonardo DaVinci are the most influential and some argue, the greatest artists of this period. The most influential mentor for Raphael’s career in art was Pietro Perugino (Biography of Raphael).

Perugino worked with Leonardo DaVinci in Florence and like many Italian artists at the time, was commissioned by various popes and contributed to painting some of the walls of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican (Field, 2013). One of Perugino’s most famous works was at the Collegio del Cambio in Perugia, Italy where his paintings on the walls and ceilings depicted astronomy, Roman mythology, scenes of Ancient Rome and Christianity. This masterful mixture of historic and Christian scenes served the purpose described in the popular humanist and neoplatonic movements of the time. According to the 2013 article by Tara Field on Perugino, it is likely that Raphael assisted him at the Collegio as a student. One of Raphael’s most famous paintings, which is a clear representation of humanisn, is The School of Athens. The centerpiece figures of this painting are the ancient Greek philosophers, Plato and Aristotle. Other figures include other Greek philosophers throughout history, as well as Greek gods. Finally, the painting includes a self-portrait of Raphael (Stewart, 2018). As a reminder from a previous blog post, part of the idea of humanism is a return back to ancient Greek and Roman thought. At this point during the Italian Renaissance, the Catholic Church was also more accepting of humanism, given that Pope Julius II commissioned Raphael (a student of humanism) to assist in painting the Sistine Chapel, among other rooms in the Vatican presently called the “Raphael Rooms.” (By following the link, you can virtually visit the Raphael Rooms and experience his masterpieces for yourself!) One of the rooms was set to be Julius’ library (Stewart, 2018). At this time during the Renaissance when painters were commissioned to paint libraries, they emphasized artwork of famous thinkers. Raphael took this concept, along with his humanist way of painting from Perugino to produce the famous painting The School of Athens for the Catholic Church, where it still resides today in the Vatican Museum.

Aside from the humanist influence that Perugino had on Raphael, he also had influence in terms of some of the genre of paintings, specifically the Catholic genre. In particular, Perugino painted many pictures of Madonna (Mary, the mother of Jesus) and Child (Jesus Christ). There is a large collection throughout the world of these types of paintings by Perugino, consisting of numerous private collections and in public museums (Field, 2013). It is very evident that Perugino’s paintings had a clear impact on his student, Raphael who also produced numerous paintings of Madonna and Child. To date, there are 34 surviving “Madonna with Child” paintings by Raphael in various museums throughout the world (Samuel H. Kress Foundation, 2020).

Perugino was but one example of those who supported and influenced Raphael into the masterpieces that we are able to appreciate today. It is amazing that in such a short life, Raphael also had influence on other artists who contributed so much to the world. His legacy is not only what he gave the world in terms of art, but how he influenced others to carry out his methods.

It is mere speculation to say when and at what location did Raphael have his workshop consisting of his works and those of his students and assistants. According to John Shearman, it was sometime after 1517 and at Palazzo Caprini in Rome. The more important aspect is the students who were produced out of Raphael’s teachings and methods from this workshop. Two of the most influential students (referred to as “assistants”) of Raphael were Giovanni Francesco Penni and Giulio Romano. Raphael would also send his assistants to other cities throughout Europe for the purposes of influence and reach (today we call it “networking”). In addition, Raphael was also very keen on his style that according to Romano, Raphael would instruct his assistants on individual works to the point that it looked like an actual Raphael painting (Shearman, 41-47). In Shearman’s study, he tries to delineate between works that may be those of Raphael and those of his assistants, given that they are so close in appearance to Raphael’s paintings. Most of the time, the determination of the artist can be made given the differences in the quality of the painting and comparing those subtle differences to known paintings of either Raphael or his assistants (Shearman, 54).

Raphael also used his assistants very significantly in the preparatory stage for his drawings. There are many “modelli” (copies) of Rahpael’s paintings in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence and Louvre in Paris, as well as other museums throughout the world that were created by Raphael’s assistants. One of these famous “modello” paintings is Christ’s Charge to St. Peter. In addition to paintings, Raphael also utilized his assistants to create works for groups, such as churches or the Vatican. The most famous of these works are the cartoons and tapestries located in the Vatican. For those who have been to the Vatican Museum, these are the large tapestries on the way to the Sistine Chapel. The assistants would do much of the ground work in the beginning stages of these tapestries. Raphael learned this style of engaging his assistants very early on in projects from Donato Bramante, the architect of St. Peter’s Basilica. Bramante involved his students very early on in the drawing process for St. Peter’s. In fact, historians cannot pinpoint some of the building drawings to Bramante’s credit and speculate that it was his students who drew many of the plans for buildings inside the Vatican (Shearman, 49). Raphael clearly adopted this process especially given the labor intensiveness that was involved in creating the tapestries and the speed at which Raphael completed them (approximately 3 years). In addition, the drawings for the Villa Madama (located at the Uffizi Gallery) attributed to Raphael, were actually mostly done by his assistant, Giovanni Francesco da Sangalla (Shearman, 49-52). Nevertheless, it was the mind and methods that Raphael instilled in his assistants that brought these masterpieces to fruition.

Following Raphael’s untimely death, Penni and Romano completed Raphael’s unfinished works of the Hall of Constantine in the Vatican. This was a decision by Pope Clement VII and a clear indication that the Pope wanted Raphael’s influence seen through completion. In fact, many commissions to Raphael were finished by Penni and Romano in Raphael’s workshop following his death (Morris, 1999). Romano went on to continue Raphael’s workshop and as a result, his legacy.

At the time of his death in 1520, Raphael was engaged to be married to Maria Babbiena, the niece of a Cardinal. However, he was in love with a daughter of a baker from Siena who worked for the Pope. Raphael died on Good Friday (April 6) 1520 of fever and by his own wishes, was buried inside the Pantheon (Biography of Raphael). There is speculation as to what he was doing that may have caused or exacerbated the medical condition that spiraled into his expeditious passing, but I will leave you to do your own research on that.

This past April 6 was the 500th anniversary of Raphael Sanzio’s death and Italy has dubbed the year 2020 as “The Year of Raphael.” The largest gathering of Raphael exhibits in the world had started at the Scuderie del Quirinale in Rome this past March, but had to be closed to the public due to COVID-19. The exhibition featured works on loan from museums such as the Uffizi, Louvre, National Gallery of Art and Vatican Museum. More information on the exhibition can be found by reading this article. This YouTube link walks you through the beautiful Quirinale exhibition while telling you Raphael's amazing story.

As we can see with Raphael’s determination to pass on his painting and drawing methods through his workshop, the passing of knowledge, skills and techniques is nothing new. At times we do it without even knowing. For example, your child may listen to how you answer the phone and then mimic that (shoutout to my 21 month old nephew, Matthew). In the workplace, development can be as simple as showing a co-worker an easier way to apply a computer program or as complex as building a new computer program. While education, classroom training and certifications are very important, especially if you are early in your career or want to advance or transition in your career, it is not the full spectrum of development. Relationships with and learning from others, as well as on-the-job experience should account for 90% of development.

There is a common model that is used in many workplaces called the 70-20-10 Model for Learning and Development. This model was developed by three researchers in the 1980s for the Center for Creative Leadership. The reason for coming up with this model was a result of research into leadership development experiences of various corporate leaders at the time (“The 70-20-10 Model for Learning and Development,” 2014). It was so widely accepted then and used or has been modified by many different sized companies to this day.

Here is a glimpse of what the 70-20-10 Model can look like:

70% - Knowledge from job-related experiences:

  • Project work

  • Everyday tasks

  • Production meetings

  • Work details or temporary assignments

  • Cross-training in other areas of the organization

  • Lateral reassignments to other duties

  • Promotions

20% - Learning from others:

  • Mentorships

  • Team projects

  • Meetings and networking events

  • Discussions and correspondence with colleagues or others in your network

  • Simply working next to somebody and all that comes with that through communication on a given day

10% - Instruction

  • College courses

  • Certifications

  • Online courses (e.g. LinkedIn Learning or others offered by your company)

  • In person classes at your workplace

  • Conferences that offer instruction/lectures

The 70-20-10 Model makes sense because of the way most of you spend your workday. In fact, the “70%” may actually be 90% or more in your workplaces and you may think you don’t have the time or budget for the “30%”. However, you can enhance the 30% in many ways that are inexpensive or do not significantly impact your organization’s budget and that are not time consuming.

Here are some suggestions for what you can do to keep on track with the other 30% of the Method:

  • Create an Individual Development Plan (IDP) or other mechanism that your workplace may use and stick to that plan.

  • Participate in your company or professional affiliation’s mentoring program either as a mentor or mentee. For example, if you belong to SHRM, ABA, AMA, etc., they probably have opportunities for mentorship. Being a mentor will develop your communication and leadership skills and has the added (and most important) benefit of guiding somebody else in their career. You will be spreading your professional legacy and positively influencing others much like Perugino did with Raphael and what Raphael did with his assistants.

  • Go to networking events to make connections with people who interest you and can help you develop or advance in your career. Networking should also be used for building your brand and business, similar to how Raphael sent his assistants out to other places for those purposes. It is also very important to followup and keep in touch with those contacts.

  • Volunteer and participate in team projects, especially in areas that you are passionate about. Also, talk to your boss about spending some of your time on an assignment in another group that may interest you. Keep in mind that work in another group may result in your working longer hours, but the results will pay dividends of exposure, motivation and a sense of belonging.

  • If possible, do as many online courses in your field as possible. This does not necessarily need to be anything your work offers, but there is so much out there on the internet, YouTube, etc. that you can learn.

  • Read articles, papers, blogs, case studies, etc. in your field.

During this time of COVID-19 when most of you are working from home and do not have those long and stressful commutes, you may want to use the extra time or down time to brush up on the 30%. Even those who don’t work from home, you should utilize some of your time for any development possible even if it’s one hour per week.

You should not be apprehensive from talking to your boss about development. Employee development is a win-win. Most managers want their employees to develop because your development means more expertise and productivity for the organization and many, many benefits for you that can mean increased motivation, obtaining expertise level and advancement. Raphael had such a great reputation that it reflected on his two assistants to the point that the Pope himself trusted them to continue the lead on Raphael’s projects.

If your boss or organization is not receptive to your development (I’m not talking about budgetary, significant time constraints or other temporary reasons), then it may be time to look for a new boss or organization.

Raphael Sanzio was an extraordinary artist of the Renaissance period whose works exist today in some of the most famous museums of the world. One could imagine what it was like in his workshop filled with works in progress consisting of paintings, architectural drawings, cartoons and tapestries that he and his assistants were working on under his direction and using his methods. This is a true representation of the “70%” that Raphael wittingly or unwittingly expressed upon his assistants as they continued their work in operating Raphael’s workshop, continuing his projects, but most importantly, continuing his legacy as they created their own.

Employees can heed the example of Raphael by taking initiative for their own development, which will result in advancement. In the present time, use your homes and when we re-integrate to the workplace, use your office as your workshop to learn, grow and solidify YOUR reputation and professional legacy.

From left to right: The Sistine Madonna (Location: Gemaldegalerie Alte Meister Dresden); Self-portrait (Location: Uffizi Gallery); The School of Athens (Location: Vatican Museum)


Biography of Raphael,”, 2002-2017, Accessed: 14 April 2020.

Field, Tara, “Discovering Perugino,”, 11 February 2013, Accessed: 17 April 2020.

Morris, Roderick Conway, “Raphael’s Studio and Legacy,”, 24 April 1999, Accessed: 29 April 2020.

Samuel H. Kress Foundation, “Raphael’s Madonnas: Full of Grace,” 2020,, Oxford University Press, 2020, Accessed: 17 April 2020.

Shearman, John. “The Organization of Raphael's Workshop.” Art Institute of Chicago Museum Studies, vol. 10, 1983, pp. 41–57. JSTOR, Accessed: 28 April 2020.

Stewart, Jessica, “The Story Behind Raphael’s Masterpiece ‘The School of Athens,”, 6 September 2018, Accessed: 17 April 2020.

The 70-20-10 Model for Learning and Development,” Training Industry, 28 January 2014, Accessed: 29 April 2020.

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