Madonna And Child Enthroned With Saints: Visual Analysis Research Paper

Length: 7 pages Sources: 7 Subject: Art  (general) Type: Research Paper Paper: #58961841 Related Topics: Italian Renaissance, Virginia Woolf, Italian, Painting
Excerpt from Research Paper :

16th Century Italian Renaissance Art History

This paper is about a painting that is on display at a New York City museum. The painting was done in the 16th century during the Italian Renaissance. The artwork has been done by Raphael who only worked during that period. The essay is a visual analysis combined with research discussing size, brush stroke, color, craftsmanship as well as history of the painting. It is noteworthy that Raphael's real name is Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino. He was an Italian who excelled at painting and architecture and his artworks were and still are renowned for being perfect and graceful in every way. Raphael, Leonardo along with Michelangelo formed a trio of renowned and legendary masters whose works were unsurpassed in their lifetime. This paper discusses The Madonna and Child Enthroned with Saints. The saints had been the Young Baptist along with Saints Peter, Lucy, Catherine, as well as, Paul). This work is generally identified as the Colonna Altarpiece and it is a celebrated handiwork of Raphael, whose art work dated from the High Renaissance period in Italy (Wolk-Simon 2006). The Colonna Altarpiece was completed by Raphael around the year 1504. Today, the painting can be seen at the Metropolitan Art Museum situated in New York. Currently, there is no other Raphael altarpiece on display anywhere within the U.S. (MET Museum, 2013).

The Madonna and Child Enthroned with Saints along with the half-moon shaped space (lunette) of God, the Father, together with two Angels as well as the two Seraphim together form a pair of main panels of an altarpiece that was created in and around the years 1504-1505 for the Franciscan convent of Sant' Antonio da Padova. This convent is located in Perugia and has been mentioned by Giorgio Vasari in 1568 in his Biography of an artist. Till now, the altarpiece does not have a date, but later when G.F. Waagen (1838) viewed the work in the middle of the nineteenth century, he gave the work a date: 1505. This work is also oftentimes called the Colonna Altarpiece mainly because the work was purchased by the Colonna family, who hailed from Rome and purchased the work after 1689. The altarpiece in totality includes a base on which the altar stands and it also has three scenes depicting Christ's Love -The Anguish in the Garden (which is also seen in the collection at the Museum, The Parade to Calvary (London's National Gallery), as well as the Pieta (Boston's Gardner Museum)-and there are also a pair of panels that depict Saints Francis of Assisi as well as Padua's Anthony (London's Dulwich Gallery). The Altarpiece also flanks the base on which the altar stands (Venturi 1927 and Fahy 1978), and they all together form the bases of the columns of the altarpiece's original frame (Wolk-Simon 2006).

Historical Analysis of this painting

The Colonna Altarpiece is considered to be one of the first as well as most evanescent examples of the Raphael's works, and it was especially commissioned for the convent of Perugia's Sant'Antonio. In the year 1504, at the age of twenty-one and before departing for Florence, Raphael began painting this work which was completed in 1505 upon his return to Perugia. This artwork truly exemplifies the best of Raphael's early style as well as his Florentine style which he developed subsequently. The traditionalist masterpiece is a reflection of the influence exerted on Raphael by his mentor Perugino. The extensiveness and dignity shown in this painting helps to make a somewhat rigid posed group look less rigid and more dignified and glorious. This infusion of extensiveness and dignity speaks volumes of Raphael's understanding and familiarity with the artwork crafted by Fra Bartolomeo in Florence. Raphael has also treated Saint Peter and Saint Paul in a most remarkable manner. The two saint's ostensible volume takes up almost all the space at both sides of the main panel. Similarly, the images of God (the Father) along with two angels are also done in a most symmetrical manner, adding volume to the altarpiece's half-moon shaped curvature above the main panel (Ferino-Pagden 1981).

The altarpiece was completed by Raphael sometime in the period...


The work was commissioned for a small convent of Saint' Antonion in Perugia where it was then displayed in a portion of the church that was earmarked for nuns who earlier had strongly demanded that a few traditionalist features like the ornately clothed Christ Child are added. Raphael, who had studied the works of Leonardo da Vinci as well as Fra Bartholomew in Florence, has also displayed glimpses of their influence in his depiction of the somber male saints (Ferino-Pagden 1981).

In 1678, the Colonna family who hailed from Rome got to acquire the altarpiece. Thus, at times, this altarpiece is also called by the name of Colonna. When the Colonna Altarpiece was bought by Pierpoint Morgan (a New York-based financier) the world press covered this event extensively. Though the frame was of the same period; however, it was still not the actual one made by Raphael (Ferino-Pagden 1981).

The money required to create the work was obtained when an endowment was made to the convent in the year 1478. The terms of the endowment stated that a painting as well as its frame should be created exclusively for the "interna chiesa" (inner church), and for the sole use of the sequestered nuns. On the other hand, the "esterna chiesa" (outer church reserved for public) already had been beautified with a significant painting called "Sant' Antonio Polyptych" designed by Piero Francesca. The altarpiece created by Raphael was placed in the middle wall of the basic polygonal choir. This particular work is illuminated by lights emanating from a number of windows placed on the church's right hand side wall. The unique thing about this way of illuminating the painting was that the light from the windows followed the direction of the actual starting-place of the light (Ferino-Pagden 1981).

Analyzing the Painting Visually

In the central panel, the artist shows the Virgin together with Child instated on a well-planned ornate throne covered with a ceremonial canopy. In addition, Christ, who has been shown sitting on the lap of the Virgin, is blessing The Baptist Saint John, who is standing at the foot of the throne. There are also four saints who are closely surrounding the throne; these four saints include Peter, Catherine, a female saint whose name is not known (believed to be representing Cecilia, according to Vasari, but she is also termed as Saints Barbara, Rosa of Viterbo, Lucy, as well as Dorothy), along with Paul. To their rear there is wide-ranging scenery which includes a structure with a lone tower. The details of this scenery were part of another page on the left hand side of the painting. This page however is now in possession of the Ashmolean Museum (Ferino-Pagden 1981). Raphael has taken a lot of care to develop the details in this drawing. The same care has also been exercised by the artist in the under-drawing in the panel which seemingly suggests a symbolic tower which is perhaps the attribute of Saint Barbara. The half-moon shaped space is very graceful and here the artist (Raphael) has shown an approving God, the Father, embracing the globe in His hands. He is surrounded by a pair of angels who hold ribbons that are fluttering and alongside there are a pair of seraphim whose heads seem to be very cupid-like (Wolk-Simon 2006).

When Raphael began working on this painting, he was still residing in Perugia, and so a lot of the design of this work reflects the influence of Umbrian artists such as Perugino in particular and Pinturicchio with whom Raphael may have studied as well as collaborated. The half-moon shaped space in particular shows the influence that Perugino had on Raphael. Perugino had already created a similar lunette (half-moon shaped space) polypytch for the church from San Pietro located in Perugia (presently Musee des Beaux-Arts, Lyons) during 1496. On the other hand, the effect that Pinturicchio has had on Raphael is clearly seen in the way the clothes are ornamented. This is very noticeable in the way that the mantle of the Virgin has been painted and additionally in the architecture as well. The Christ Child is shown in a very conservative manner, which according to Vasari is because this was requested for by the church's nuns. The influence exerted by Pinturicchio on Raphael can be observed in the unusual design on the shoulder of the gown worn by Christ. This kind of ornament can also be observed in the "Madonna and the Child" from around 1490 (located in Philadelphia Art Museum). However, till date no one has been able to explain the reason for this design on the shoulder area (Wolk-Simon 2006).

It has been deduced that there was a time lapse between Raphael's earlier works on the altarpiece and its completion. The strikingly memorial and modern image of the saints Paul and…

Sources Used in Documents:


Brealey. J.M. (1977). The Colonna Altarpiece in the Metropolitan Museum and Problems of the Early Style of Raphael: Appendix. Metropolitan Museum Journal 12, p. 91.

Crowe, J.A. And Cavalcaselle, G.B. (1882). Raphael: His Life and Works. London.

Fahy, E. (1978). Italian Paintings at Fenway Court and Elsewhere. Connoisseur 198, pp. 39 -- 40.

Ferino-Pagden, S. (1981). Raphael's Activity in Perugia as Reflected in a Drawing in the Ashmolean Museum -- Oxford. Mitteilungen des Kunsthistorischen Institutes.
MET Museum. (2013). Madonna and Child Enthroned with Saints. Accessed from:

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