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Raphael Madonna and Child Enthroned with Saints

Uploaded by sinbaaad on Oct 30, 2011

Raphael: “Madonna and Child Enthroned with Saints” c. 1504

This essay discusses Raphael’s altar piece

I Introduction

The birth of Christ, the Crucifixion, the Resurrection, the Pieta; religious art has always been an important tradition in the West.
This paper examines an altarpiece by Raphael, painted around 1504 (16.30 ab), first describing it briefly then considering it in more detail.

II Description

The first thing we notice is that the painting is in two pieces: the main subject, Mary and the Child, are in the center of the lower portion, which is a square. Above it is a semicircle with other figures in it. A heavy horizontal wooden bar, which is part of the structure that frames the entire work, divides the two.
In the bottom portion are the Madonna and Christ, surrounded by five other figures, four adults and a child. The four adults all have halos, so we can assume they’re the saints of the title. The child, however, is not depicted as divine, which immediately begs the question: who is he and what is he doing in this group?
In the semicircular section above the main picture are five more figures, which are clearly divine. In this section, God is flanked by two angels; there are two cherubim (or rather just their heads, which is rather disconcerting, particularly as they have rather sour expressions) floating one on either side of him as well. Thus the composition is balanced in the number of figures, five above and five below.
The colors in the work are very rich, with deep reds, purples and blues predominating. The clothing is interesting, as the five figures below appear to be in contemporary Renaissance garb rather than traditional Hebrew or desert robes. God and his angels (except for those disembodied heads!) are portrayed in the flowing garments we tend to associate with depictions of heaven.

III Discussion

The first thing that draws the eye is the luminosity of the sky behind the figures. It is a glowing purplish-blue at the horizon line that shades into a deeper blue toward the top of the composition. This background tends to “pop” the figures out at the viewer.
The two distinct parts of the painting house two distinct groups of figures, which serve to separate the human from the divine. Mary, the Christ, the saints and the little boy all still belong to the mundane...

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Uploaded by:   sinbaaad

Date:   10/30/2011

Category:   Religion

Length:   5 pages (1,123 words)

Views:   4952

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