Dec 142007
 

The Web Gallery of Art mentions that this piece, hanging in Muceo Nacional del Prado, is believed to had been painted by Raphael’s assistants. Though I am not in the position to contest this website or the specialists they cite, I would say that Madonna’s head and face seem very much Raphael, exhibiting the artists trademark movements and gestures. In fact, these features distinguish this work of art from the sheer multitude of similar images, where the saintly figure sits on a throne, surrounded by contextual visitors, apostles or other subordinate holy men and women. It adds a touch of that unique combination of sweeping calm and oblique concern simmering beneath the serene countenance. I would even go as far as suggesting that the mix may be translated into religious terms, respectively signifying the divine and the mortal principles. Raphael could have simply borrowed from the psychological realm to truthfully portray the clerical ideological one.

 

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Madonna with a Fish (In t…
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If we go back to the formal — and imposing — element, I think it undermines the narrative by side-stepping, and consequently weakening it. This judgment makes more sense in comparison to later, more loose and original portrayals of evangelic narratives, performed, for instance, by Caravaggio — but this is an anachronism. In contemporary milieu of existing artistic norms, this rendering manifests perfection that we are accustomed to expect from the master. He did not innovate here, but he elevated the formula to the highest, possibly unprecedented level of execution, both in technical and psychological dramatic terms. The pairing of the angel guiding Tobias reflects some of the sweetness in the interaction between Madonna and baby Christ, both children, embraced by the divine figures, extending hands, though the former with notable assistance.

 

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The Esterhazy Madonna
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The very clean composition accords harmoniously with the palette: the lower parts of the painting are rather vacant, and the colors are correspondingly desaturated; the higher we look, the more the color gains in intensity and tone. The richness of the curtain is almost opposite to the pallid stand before the throne. These features combined can be viewed as a painterly idiom for religious purification and awareness, starting below, slow and from scratch towards loftier realms of sacrifice, up to martyrdom (Christ) and heaven (Mary, later crowned the queen of heaven). Thus the bare stand serves as an invitation for the devout viewer to commence on a spiritual journey, much like the youth holding the fish did. Admirable is the lack of hysteria and the subtlety of the call for action, reflected in the tame and ruminative expression of the lion. Raphael confidently endows surrounding subjects with that remarkable sense of calm and composure that characterize all of his Madonnas.

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