Alba Madonna by Raphael

2:18 PM

Alba Madonna by Raphael 
A little bit of history

Date: 1510
Located in the National Gallery, Washington D.C.

This painting depicts one of Raphael's favorite subjects, that of Our Lady with the Infant Jesus. However, unlike his famous Madonnas, this one presents another figure, Saint John the Baptist, Jesus' cousin and precursor, as a child. All three figures look directly at the reed cross Jesus holds, a reference to his future crucifixion. The knowledge of Jesus' cruel death is shared by all of them and so is the acceptance of sacrifice in each of their lives.

A little bit of technique
Raphael was not only extremely talented but was also constantly introducing innovations. While the round format of the picture was conventional in Florence, the picture has a seriousness that his other Madonnas lack.

The Virgin's pose is noteworthy. It looks like a complicated and unusual way to sit (not to mention uncomfortable), but through Raphael's mastery the Virgin's pose is effortless and natural. According to the National Gallery "that apparent ease was considered a virtue at the time: sprezzatura, which meant avoiding any appearance of effort in making something fine. It was an ideal of courtly behavior and Raphael embodied it in his art".

A little bit of enthusiasm
I wasn't such a big fan of Raphael's until I saw some of his paintings, such as this one, live. His ability of taking something complicated and turning it into something natural really makes him a genius. His paintings definitely deserve deeper study, but their beauty is noticeable from the first moment you set eyes on them.

His aesthetics might not exactly be in vogue right now in the arts, but I do believe that in other areas, such as dance and fashion, there's still a great desire to make something complex in technical terms but with an appearance of ease and naturality.

Because of that we will keep coming back to Raphael for inspiration and guidance.

What do you think about Raphael's Madonnas and ideals?

Image via Cnytr

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  1. What i like the most about your art posts are these interesting facts like the sprezzatura. Because these may be found not only in this or all Rapahel's works. I can find it in many art works. Which is very nice and recently happened to me while visiting MASP. One of the pieces reminded me of you, it was a 1600's piece, and one person in the paintings had donkey ears, and you already commented on that. Keep bringing those up.


    1. Thanks for the sweet comment, I appreciate it. Though I'm not crazy about you seeing a painting with donkey ears and remembering me! I'll let that one slide... xx


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