Knights of the Art HTML version

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
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.
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
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