Raphael, Virgin And Child With Book

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Raphael, Virgin and Child with Book


In this painting, the balanced, serene figures are described simply and naturally. A lucid geometry organizes the composition, from the pyramidal grouping of the Madonna and Child to the geometric idealization of their faces and bodies. The deep, blue arch of the Madonna's silhouette encloses the figure of the Child and frames the book, which is further emphasized by the touching hands that hold it..

The inscription in the book introduces the ninth hour, or Nones of the Canonical Offices, recited daily by all monastic communities. The Nones commemorates Christ's Crucifixion and Death. With eyes turned to heaven, the Christ Child contemplates His own sacrifice as man's Redeemer. Raphael has depicted more than just a beautiful image of the Madonna and Child -- he has created a meditation piece. The profoundly spiritual quality achieved by Raphael explains why his Madonnas were in such high demand

Raphael was also a keen student of archaeology and of ancient Greco-Roman sculpture, echoes of which are apparent in his paintings of the human figure during the Roman period. In 1515 Leo X put him in charge of the supervision of the preservation of marbles bearing valuable Latin inscriptions; two years later he was appointed commissioner of antiquities for the city, and he drew up an archaeological map of Rome. (Edwards et al, p837-846) Raphael had by this time been put in charge of virtually all of the papacy's various artistic projects in Rome, involving architecture, paintings and decoration, and the preservation of antiquities.

Discussion and Analysis

Alongside several religious icons of various origins at the Mabee-Gerrer Museum of Art one "Madonna and Child" is housed in a protective glass case, typically an indication of the value assigned to a particular work of art. Closer examination of the plaque mounted aside the painting reveals that it is a "Raphael," at least attributed to his studio. This painting is a copy of the Connestabile Madonna, which is in the Hermitage collection in St. Petersburg, Russia. It is a typical Raphael composition and is representative of the many "Madonna and Child" pieces painted by Raphael during his years in Florence between 1504 and 1508. The original is round, rather than the square shape of this piece and the medium employed on both is tempra and oil on wood. The Mabee-Gerrer piece is surrounded by an ornate relief carved wooden frame. Whether it is made of a single piece of wood is not readily apparent.

The background is not particularly realistic and there is somewhat less detail than in the original Connestible Madonna. Both characters seem real in a plastic sense, projected forward from the background with a limited three-dimensional effect, which gives the central figures added prominence. This appears to be another trait in common with da Vinci. Snow capped mountains on the horizon to the right of the Virgin add a unique, albeit puzzling, aspect to the painting. The lake and the tree on the left, although not essential to the reality of the overall work, ...
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