Art lovers are in for a treat over the next few weeks. In addition to the latest entry in the magnificent Exhibition on Screen series, Michelangelo: Love and Death, there will also be a chance to see Luca Viotto's Raphael: The Lord of the Arts at The Phoenix on 31 May. Filmed in 20 locations, including the previously hidden Vatican Logge and Cardinal Bibbiena's apartment in the Apostolic Palace, this is the first in-depth screen study of Raphael Santi, whose life and works have previously been covered in such little-seen items as John Holdsworth's teleplay, Raphael: A Mortal God (2004), and Luciano Emmer's typically charming short, Raffaello (2009). Produced by the team responsible for Marco Pianigiani's The Vatican Museums (2014) and Viotto's Florence and the Uffizi Gallery (2015) and St Peter's and the Papal Basilicas of Rome (2016), the 18-month project amassed 200 hours of footage and it's a great shame that Viotto did not live to see the finished article on the big screen.

Opening with a shot of Raphael (Flavio Parenti) beside the Madonna and Child fresco painted in the family home in Urbino by his father, Giovanni Santi (Enrico Lo Verso), this earnestly narrated portrait returns to the busy workshop, where Raphael was taught to spread his wings and reach for the sky by a father who was an intellectual and poet, as well as a painter. Having lost his mother, Màgia, at the age of eight, Raphael was apprenticed to Pietro Perugino. But, despite Giorgio Vasari playing down the influence of Giovanni (who died when Rapael was 11), he remained a crucial influence on his work and was included among the philosophers in famous fresco, `The School of Athens', which adorns the wall in the Vatican Stanza della Segnatura.

The young Raphael was enchanted by the Ducal Palace of Federico III da Montefeltro and was particularly inspired by the 26 portraits of famous historical figures painted in the studiolo by Joos van Wassenhove. Standing before Donato Bramante's `The Ideal City', art historian Vincenzo Farinella explains that Raphael was fortunate to grow up in one of the leading centres of Renaissance art, as the Duke of Urbino was an enlightened and cultured patron who welcomed Italian and Flemish painters to his court. Among the works he commissioned was the `Brera Madonna' or `Montefeltro Altarpiece' in the church of San Bernardino. Produced by Piero della Francesca, this is a key work in the defining the relationship between figures and architecture and Farinella notes that Raphael's lively mind would have been moulded by such exceptional draughtsmanship.

At the age of 17, he was ready to embark upon his career. Completed with his father's onetime assistant, Evangelista da Pian di Meleto, Raphael's first documented work only survives in fragments. But the head of an angel in the `Baronci Altarpiece' (1500-01) in the church of St Nicholas of Tolentino in Città di Castello already reveals the characteristics that would make his mature style so distinctive. However, the influence of Perugino is readily evident in both `The Mond Crucifixion' and `The Crowning of the Virgin' (both 1502-03), although the stylistic differences in the latter between the earthly and heavenly scenes suggests an artist ready to abandon the traditions of Umbrian painting and strike out on his own. This would become more apparent in `The Marriage of the Virgin' (1504), which is contrasted with Perugino's vision of the same scene, which was painted around the same time. The master presents the background figures as extras in a staged tableau, while the pupil captures a scene from life and this refinement took the Renaissance in a new direction.

Arriving in Florence, Raphael was befriended by Leonardo da Vinci, who showed him the recently completed `Mona Lisa' (1503-06). However, art historian Antonio Natali takes us to the Brancacci Chapel in the Church of Santa Maria del Carmine, which was frescoed in the mid-1420s by Masolino da Panicale and Masaccio. He claims this is the `sanctuary of Western Art', as generations of artists drew inspiration from it and he notes that Raphael would have seen it at the time that both Leonardo and Michelangelo lived under the Medici.

Although he received no public commissions during his stay in Florence, Raphael produced such significant pieces as `Portrait of Agnolo Doni' (c.1505) and `Portrait of Maddalena Strozzi' (c.1506). This cloth merchant also commissioned `Doni Tondo' (c.1507), an image of the Holy Family that is the only known Michelangelo panel painting to have survived. During this period, Raphael also completed a number of Madonnas, several of which include a young St John. But the most celebrated is `Madonna of the Goldfinch' (c.1505-06), which was restored after a landslide broke it into 17 pieces in 1547. Bearing the influence of both Leonardo and Michelangelo, this is hailed as one of Raphael's most poetic pictures, although Natali also praises `La Belle Jardinière' (1507), which he suggests bears the influence of Hellenistic sculpture.

Many depictions of the Madonna and Child anticipate the Crucifixion and Raphael conveys the shocking reality of this event in `The Deposition' (1507), which was commissioned by Atalanta Baglioni following the death of her son, Grifonetto. What the film fails to mention, however, is that she had refused to give him sanctuary after he had murdered some family members during a blood feud and her remorse is reflected in the expression of the fainting Virgin. Shortly before he left Florence, Raphael started work on `Madonna del Baldacchino', an altarpiece that remained unfinished when he moved to Rome in 1508 and which can now be found in Filippo Brunelleschi's wondrous Santo Spirito basilica. Natali regrets that it lacks the vibrant colours that one associates with Raphael, as this could have been one of his most symphonic compositions.

Over a reconstruction of Raphael earning the trust of Pope Julius II under the resentful gaze of Michelangelo, the artist suggests that he could only produce perfection in the Vatican. This scene has been borrowed from Émile-Jean-Horace Vernet's `Raphael at the Vatican' (1832) and Vatican Museums director Antonio Paolucci recalls how Julius summoned the pair to begin work on the Sistine Chapel and his private apartments. Known collectively as the Raphael Rooms, the Sala di Costantino (`Hall of Constantine'), the Stanza di Eliodoro (`Room of Heliodorus'), the Stanza della Segnatura (`Room of the Signatura') and the Stanza dell'Incendio del Borgo (`The Room of the Fire in the Borgo') became the centre of Raphael's activity for a decade.

The Signatura is dominated by `The School of Athens' (1509-11), which has Plato and Aristotle at its centre and features the great thinkers of the Western tradition and includes Zoroaster and Ptolemy, as well as the atheist Epicurus and the Muslim scholar, Averroes. We briefly see the cartoon on which the fresco was based. But, while we learn that Heraclitus was added as a tribute to Michelangelo, no mention is made of the fact that Plato resembles Leonardo.

The splendour of this allegory, together with `Disputation of the Sacrament' (1509-10) on the opposite wall, convinced Julius to entrust the decoration of the entire suite to the 27 year-old Raphael. He moved on to the Room of Heliodorus, where the camera glides over `The Expulsion of Heliodorus From the Temple' (1511-12) and `The Deliverance of St Peter' (1514), which Paolucci rates as the greatest nocturnal scene ever painted. But Julius died in 1513 before the commission was completed and he was succeeded by Giovanni de' Medici, the son of Lorenzo the Magnificent, who took the title Leo X.

He was a sophisticated man and urged Raphael to experiment in the Room of the Fire in the Borgo, with the eponymous picture using a Trojan calamity to allude to the founding of Rome, while the presence of Leo X on the balcony seeming to extinguish the blaze with a blessing indicates the start of a new golden age. But, while Paolucci declares `The Fire in the Borgo' a pivotal work in the history of Classicism, he omits to mention that it was most likely painted according to his design by Raphael's assistant, Giulio Romano. Gianfrancesco Penni and Raffaellino del Colle are similarly overlooked in the brief discussion of the Hall of Constantine, the largest space in the Stanze di Raffaello, which were completed after Raphael's tragically early demise for Pope Clement VII after work had been halted by Hadrian VI. Showing how the Roman emperor Constantine handed the imperial city to the Church, these frescoes were being restored at the time of filming and the narrator contents himself with speculating on whether Raphael actually painted the figure of Comitas in oil (although many also attribute Justitia to him).

Away from the Vatican, Raphael also toiled on several altarpieces, including `Madonna of Foligno' (1511), a dramatic apocalyptic allegory that was commissioned for Santa Maria in Aracoeli, and the `Sistine Madonna' (1512), which emphasises its ethereal quality with the green curtains that give the image a theatrical feel, as two cherubs and saints Sixtus and Barbara pay homage. Back in the Apostolic Palace, Raphael worked on the Stufetta and Logetta in Cardinal Bibbiena's apartments, which suggested the influence of the baths of Pompeii and the wall paintings in the Domus Aurea, which had been built by Nero. He also decorated the loggias in which the popes walked while looking out on to the Eternal City. A large team of artists under Giovanni da Udine was responsible for executing these diverse images, which Baldassare Castiglione proclaimed the most beautiful thing that humankind had yet produced.

Thanks to Bramante, Raphael was allowed into the Sistine Chapel without Michelangelo's knowledge and what he saw by candlelight goaded him into rising to the challenge being thrown down by the older artist. According to Paolucci, he reached the epitome of his creativity on 26 December 1519, when his tapestries were hung inside the Sistine Chapel. He designed seven cartoons around the lives of Saints Peter and Paul to be woven in Bruges. The enterprise took four years and changed the nature of the form by adding depth to such compositions as `The Miraculous Draught of Fishes'. Narrator Riccardo Onorato wonders how differently the altar wall looked on that day before Michelangelo's The Last Judgement replaced lost pictures from the cycles of Moses and Christ and a Perugino altarpiece, `The Assumption of Mary'.

One commission led to romance, as Raphael met Margarita Luti (Angela Curri), a baker's daughter from Trastavere, while walking to the Villa Farnesina, which had been built by by Baldassare Peruzzi for the Siennese banker, Agostino Chigi. He became firm friends with Raphael and even invited La Fornarina to the villa while he worked so that he could be inspired by the presence of his beloved. Margarita was his favourite subject, but there is no guarantee she is the woman depicted in `La Fornarina' (1518-19), which was partially painted by Romano. Indeed, it's more likely she posed for `La Valeta' (c.1516), which covers the bosom of its sitter and has led some to suggest a courtesan posed for the later picture.

Positioned next to Sebastiano del Piombo's `Polyphemus' at Farnesina, `Triumph of Galatea' (1514) shows a nymph being pulled across the sea by a pair of dolphins. It's an exhilarating scene and its theme of love is echoed in the Loggia of Cupid and Psyche, which reflected the course of Chigi's own romance with his Venetian mistress, Francesca Ordeaschi. Within a year of their marriage, however, the pair were dead and Raphael's own life would unexpectedly end at the age of just 37, while he was working on `The Transfiguration' (1516-20) for the future Pope Clement VII. The lower half of the altarpiece depicts a possessed youth being comforted by the crowd and Paolucci suggests it pointed the way for Caravaggio. But the eyes raise towards Christ and, according to Vasari, the last brush strokes Raphael made were on the face of the Redeemer.

During the spring of 1520, Raphael began suffering from a series of fevers and Paolucci suggests he succumbed on his birthday, 6 April, to a form of malaria. The humanist writer Pietro Bembo (Marco Cocci) wrote the inscription for his tomb in the Pantheon: `Here lies Raphael, by whom Nature feared to be outdone while he lived, and when he died, feared that she herself would die.' No mention is made of the fact he shares his final resting place with his fiancée, Cardinal Medici Bibbiena's niece, Maria. But this is par for the course where Laura Allievi's effusive, but only fitfully insightful script is concerned. Matthew Curallo's score similarly suffers from a hollow grandeur that sometimes recalls the theme used by ITV4 for its Bundesliga highlights.

The sets and costumes created by Francesco Frigeri and Maurizio Millenotti are handsomely evocative, but the mummed interludes are stiffly played by Flavio Parenti, who is one of only four cast members to be credited. But, while this has undeniable visual potency, thanks to the cinematography of Massimiliano Gatti, the editing of Valentina Corti and the sensitive direction of Luca Viotto, this falls a long way short of the standards established by Phil Grabsky and David Bickerstaff's Exhibition on Screen strand.