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It’s finally official. My new novel is

Raphael, Painter in Rome

It will be published (once again by Arcade) in April 2020
in time for the 500th anniversary of Raphael’s death
(he died on April 6, 1520).

Raphael. Even if you consider yourself a complete art amateur, you recognize the name. Raphael is a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle after all. You probably know he’s a painter. Maybe you could place him in the Italian Renaissance or the Vatican. Maybe you even know that he painted those oh-so-famous putti (see above) that you see on coffee mugs and coasters and Christmas ornaments…

But not so long ago, Raphael was one of the most famous artists in the world — like George Clooney or Oprah. He was part of the triumvirate of the Italian Renaissance masters: Leonardo, Michelangelo and Raphael. Raphael was the artist every other artist aspired to be. Raphael was the pinnacle of perfection.

School of Athens in the Raphael Rooms in the Vatican

So what happened? Why do we now know of him primarily as a cartoon turtle instead of one of the greatest painters EVER?

Maybe we take Raphael for granted. Like Shakespeare with language or the Beatles with music, Raphael gave us our ideals in imagery; when we imagine a ‘perfect painting,’ we picture a Raphael, whether we know it or not. When we imagine a ‘perfect Madonna,’ it’s a Raphael that comes unconsciously to mind. Modern images are either a reference to a Raphael or a reaction against one…

Sistine Madonna in Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister in Dresden, Germany

According to The Guardian, maybe Raphael’s paintings are too perfect for us. Maybe his personality was too perfect: too kind, too polite, too much of a courtier — not enough angst to appeal to our modern sensibilities.

But the problem is Raphael wasn’t so perfect. He was orphaned at age 11 and from what I can see by the desperate perfectionism in his drawings, he likely suffered from what we would today call OCD. Besides, what human being is as perfect as a Raphael painting? What human DOESN’T feel anger and jealousy and fear and desperation? We all feel these things. Why should Raphael be any different.

The Transfiguration in Vatican Museums

This new novel primarily covers the years when Raphael was working in the Vatican, just down the hall from a guy by the name of Michelangelo, painting the Sistine Chapel ceiling. We’ve all heard the agony and ecstasy that Michelangelo faced during these years, but we’ve never seen this story from the POV of Michelangelo’s fiercest rival — the young, brilliant painter of perfection, Raphael.

So, come April 2020, I look forward to reintroducing you to the flawed, struggling, loving, funny HUMAN BEING that is Raphael. And if you’re already an art nerd like me and plenty familiar, I look forward to showing him to you in a new light — I hope — and making you fall in love all over again with history’s most perfect painter.

Galatea in Villa Farnesina in Rome (during Raphael’s time, known as Chigi Villa)