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Renaissance Top 48: Madonna in the Meadow

Identification

Raphael, Madonna in the Meadow, 1505-1506. Oil on panel, 3' 8 1/2'' X 2' 10 1/4''. Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna. 

Context

Under Leonardo's influence, Raphael began to modify the Madonna compositions he had learned in Umbria. Although strongly influenced by Leonardo and Michelangelo, Raphael developed an individual style. The kind of peacefulness and harmony of the painting was held in high regard by Renaissance patrons. Raphael created this during his four years spent in Florence. Raphael gave the Madonna in the Meadow to his Florentine patron Taddeo Taddi as a gift.

Content

This scene shows the Virgin with Christ and St. John the Baptist in a highly serene and tender moment against a landscape backdrop which places the scene in a Tuscan setting. The three figures in a calm green meadow are linked by looks and touching hands. Raphael placed the large, substantial figures in a Peruginesque landscape, with the typical feathery trees in the middle ground. The Virgin is sitting on an elevation on the ground. She is supporting the infant Jesus with both hands as she looks at little John the Baptist. The Christ Child is grasping the cross of St. John. The cross is a toy, an attribute of John the Baptist and a Passion symbol. The poppy at the right is also a Passion symbol. The Virgin Mary is wearing a gold-bordered blue mantle set against a red dress and her right leg is lying along a diagonal.

Image

Form

The medium of this piece is oil on panel and the dimensions are 3' 8 1/2'' X 2' 10 1/4''. Inspired by Leondardo, Raphael used pyramidal composition and modeled the faces and figures in subtle chiaroscuro. The chiaroscuro makes the figures appear to take up actual space within the picture. Raphael used a lighter color palette. Raphael used aerial perspective to show how the landscape is far away from the viewer. The landscape in the background is filled with graceful curves.

Function

The Madonna image functions as a religious item for practical use. It is also an expression of artistic achievement.