Copy of the figures of the Madonna and Child after Raphael's 'Sistine Madonna', ?early 19th century
RA Collection: Art
Raphael (1483-1520) was born in Urbino and trained with Perugino, the master of Pinturicchio. A stay in Florence between 1504 and 1508 was decisive for his artistic development as he changed significantly his manner while he became familiar with the works of the great Florentine masters such as Leonardo and Botticelli among others. He was later summoned to the papal court in Rome where he stayed until his death in 1520, decorating affresco the papal chambers in the Vatican and creating an impressive series of portraits and independent easel paintings of religious subject matters. Raphael had many pupils among whom the most notables are Giulio Romano (1499-1546), Perino del Vaga (1500-1547) and Polidoro da Caravaggio ca.1497-1543).
This painting is a copy of the upper section of Raphael's Sistine Madonna executed in Rome in 1513-14 (Gemäldegalerie, Dresden). It shows the half-length figure of the Madonna holding the Child while both are gazing at the beholder.
According to Vasari, the original painting was made for the monastery of S. Sisto in Piacenza, however the first destination of the painting is still debated. In fact, the original painting shows the Madonna and Child full length with S. Sisto on the left and S. Barbara on the right and two putti leaning against a parapet at the bottom.
The Madonna and Child show a melancholic expression, while the Madonna's gesture oscillates between protecting and presenting her Child to the forthcoming sacrifice. Their direct gazing invites to a close communion with the beholder.
Because the artist chose to only reproduce the Virgin and Child of the original composition, this painting may have been intended for private devotion. In fact, images of the Virgin and Child were among the most popular images for private devotion and these were primarily small religious paintings suitable as a focus for private worship, as opposed to larger altarpieces intended for public display.
Such images like the present one frequently emphasized the tender relationship between the mother and her child.
The very poor condition of the painting does not allow us to assert whether the painting was left unfinished or discoloured over the decades, but this does not exclude the possibility it was originally conceived as a academic study for training purposes.
990 mm x 827 mm x 20 mm
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