Madonna and Child Theme
Over the course of his Florentine years, Raphael painted a number of versions of the Virgin with Christ and the young John the Baptist in a landscape.
In his art, noble individuals move with dignity and grace through a calm,
intelligible, and ordered world. His pictures mirror Renaissance aspirations for human
conduct and Renaissance goals for the human mind. He synthesized the movements of
his figures and the spaces of his compositions into ideal structures that are integrated
and harmonized from the picture plane to the point of infinity. His figures seem to be
impelled by an energy that causes them to twist and turn gracefully and to assume oval
and spherical forms and compositions.
The series of Madonna, whose charm, matchlessly evoking the divine within tender
humanity, has captured popular imagination ever since. In composition, Raphael's early
Madonnas relate closely to the pyramidal structures evolved by Leonardo, but the
complexity and contrivance of Leonardo is resolved into a perfectly balanced harmony;
the mysterious expression of Leonardo’s figures yields to an untroubled radiance; in
place of fantastic lunar settings, a serenely placid landscape unfolds.
*40 variations on the Madonna and Child theme
*Madonna rise statues of humanity, have majesty; but not losing the motherhood
*Worked from Leonardo, inspired by his style,
*Madonna: Sprezzatura, the idea of one's expression reflected the inner quality, departed
from the material world. Ie: distant, spiritual look.
The Florentine Madonnas
In these Florentine Madonna compositions Raphael presents a noble and serene existence
in which pictorial harmonies seem less a human creation than a natural emanation from the
divine figures he portrays. These gentle blond Virgins and gravel sweet children are
gracefully poised against the answering background of hills and deep-blue sky.
3 major Florentine Madonnas were:
The Madonna of the Meadow, The Madonna of the Goldfinch and La Belle Jardiniere.
These were painted close together in time during 1506*7. They are also very close
in theme and iconography, using the Florentine motif of the infant St John the Baptist to make a stable 3-figure pyramid.
*Each landscape is an idealized version of the Tuscan countryside.
*The 3 Madonna panels also include symbols of the future Passion of Christ;; in two of
them St. John carries a cross and in the third Christ is holding a goldfinch, a bird traditionally
associated with Christ Cross of Thorns.
*These paintings have an atmosphere of quiet restraint and acceptance, which is typical of
much of High Renaissance religious art.
The Madonna of the Meadow
Style from Leonardo:
*pyramidal composition, figures intertwined
*open space as landscape background
Style from Michelangelo: (first evidence)
The Madonna of the Goldfinch
*the softness of the Virgin's face, the use of a blurring sfumato, and the sense of a transitory
movement frozen in time. But, Raphael never abandons the tension between the clear
triangularity of the composition and the puzzling interlocking relationships of the figures.
*goldfinch = human soul
*composed by the intertwined pyramidal composition
*landscape, similar to the Madonna of the Meadow
*Virgin is reserved and simple, young and beautiful.
La Belle Jardiniere
The Virgin features still recall Perugino Virgins; and the series of Madonnas Raphael made
in Florence have a domestic intimacy lost in the later ones in Rome. The physical
movement of the figues is wonderfully united with the compositional lines direction.
*figures torsion are evidenced from Michelangelo.
The Roman Madonna
Raphael's Florentine Madonnas had shown her a s a Mother and he continued this theme in
Rome with his Alba Madonna, Madonna della Sedia, Madonna di Foligno, and Sistine
The Alba Madonna has a Michelangelic heroism about it; tender as always in Raphael,
but also heavy; masses wonderfully composed in tondo form; a crescendo of emotion that
finds its fulfillment in the watchful face of Mary.
*introduction of Mannerist style
*Tondo form * (means unity) He posed the main figure of the Madonna in a complex 3-D
polygon rather than in the tightly-constructed pyramid of the earlier paintings, giving his
figure group both freedom and expressive power.
*Madonna is again shown as a young mother seated outdoors with the two young children,
although unlike the blond Florentine Madonnas she is dark-eyed. She is also a more majestic
figure than the more intimately idealised Florentine Madonnas.
*Her drapery is light but extensive, flowing over and around her body like the soft folds
of drapery in Classical sculpture.
*the cool blues and greens of the landscape add to the feeling of lightness and space and
contrast with the warm tones of the figures.
Madonna della Sedia (Chair)
*the Madonna and Child are unique and separate from ordinary humans, this is
emphasised by their gazes that do not quite meet the viewer's eye. They see beyond
us into their future and their fate.
*Raphael returned to both the theme of the Madonna as Mother and to the tondo format.
*interlocking poses: completeness, balance, harmonious. I.e. the integration: Christ
arm coming around, and Virgin arms holding him.
*harmonic composition: sub-dividing a circular shape harmonically
*underlying construction: Golden Section, vertical against horizontal format.
eg: the chair, highlighted, and reflected the images of the window
*brighter, more acidic.
Eg: Virgin's shoulder, contrast in colour and consisted of interesting patterns.
(costumes: Western in look).
This painting is a mixture of High Renaissance and Mannerist in style.
Madonna di Foligno
*an example of the Madonna in Glory.
*Madonna and Child float on clouds, surrounded by a circle of orange light and adoring little
putti, above the figures of the adult John the Baptist, St Francis, St Jerome and Sigismondo
*the two zones are firmly united by Raphael’s strong characterization of the foreground
figures and the adoring attention they give to the vision of the holy figures above them.
The gaze of the holy figures responds to theirs.
*it was painted for the high altar of the church of the Benedictine Monastery in Piacenza.
The Virgin Mary descends from heaven with the Holy Child on a canopy of clouds suffused
with light, and these tow figures look directly at the viewer. St. Sixtus seems to be pointing
out a crowd of worshippers to the Virgin.
*with its exquisite simplicity of design an supremely idealized Mother and Child, painted
with the softest sfumato.
*develop the theme of the Madonna in Glory further.
*the poses and features of the Madonna and Child are calm and human and they are
unadorned by haloes or rich decoration but their significance is conveyed by the drama
and emotion of Raphael's composition.
Old style: the look; new style: full-standing in ambiguous space.
Created by the figures alone:
*Cupid lending on the shelve, lightened up.
*Pope Sixtus, foreshortened finger, space and depth.
*Curtain: holy setting.
*St. Babara moved ito the space more than the pope.
**SPACE is mannerist in style, set in an unusual way.
Madonna: is a portrait, used the likeness of his contemporaries.
Pope Sixtus: modelled on Pope Julius II.
*Faces in background, in misty.
*divine light of heaven.
Raphael influenced by the work of Leonardo and Michelangelo. Leonardo's Mona Lisa
and Battle of Anghiari fresco influenced him crucially, yet Raphael proved that his ability
to adapt from others what was necessary to his own vision and to reject what was
incompatible with it was faultless.
Let compare Parmigianino's Madonna of the Long Neck and any one of Raphael's Madonnas.
The differences between the two paintings are the differences between High Renaissance a
nd Mannerist art.
Parmigianino had been deeply impressed with the rhythmic grace of Raphael's art, but he
has transformed the older master's figures into a remarkable new breed: their limbs,
elongated and ivory-smooth, move with effortless languor, embodying an ideal of beauty
as remote from nature as any Byzantine figure. Their setting is equally arbitrary, with a
gigantic and apparently purposeless ow of columns looming behind the tiny figure of a
The Madonna with the Long Neck is a vision of unearthly perfection, with its cold elegance
Madonna of the Long Neck was commissioned in 1534 but was never fully completed.
The elongated proportions, sloping shoulders, preciosity of surface are refined to produce
shapes of startling ornamental beauty.
The Christ Child is asleep in a pose suggestive of death, with his left arm hanging.
At the left, five graceful and sexually ambiguous figures appear in varying stages of undress;
one holds a huge urn and looks up at the Virgin, another gazes past us.
The Virgin's body and neck are dramatically attenuated, and her marmoreal forehead and
glossy curls are decorated with ropes of pearls and an enormous ruby.
the most disturbing is the towering column, smooth and polished but without a capital,
that stands in nightmarish incompleteness in the background.
See also how The Madonna of the Harpies by Andrea del Sarto, a painter who followed
in the footsteps of Raphael, lacks the creative and religious intensity of High Renaissance art. It was this kind of skilled but rather soulless work that was first given the name of Mannerist.
The Protestant Reformation which started in Germany 1517, introduced crisis for religion.
The Church undertook a programme of internal reform in response to this threat.
The Church changed its teachings, adopted some of the new ideas from the North.
This revival is called the Counter-Reformation.
The stern and gloomy religious outlook of the Counter-Reformation affected the choice
of subjects for religious works of art. There was a great deal of emphasis on death and
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