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“The Marriage of the Virgin” by Raphael

"The Marriage of the Virgin" by Raphael

“The Marriage of the Virgin” by Raphael

“The Marriage of the Virgin” by Raphael depicts a marriage ceremony between Mary and Joseph. A similar themed version by Perugino inspired Raphael, the differences in the two artworks are marked by Raphael’s more subtle and refined style. In this artwork, Raphael also challenged himself to draw the temple in perspective, with evident care, that it is delightful to behold. Painted during the Italian High Renaissance in 1504, this work was commissioned for a Franciscan church.


Joseph (Hebrew: Yosef; Greek: Ioséph) married Mary, Jesus’ mother, and was Jesus’ legal father, in the gospels. In the Gospel of Luke, Joseph lived in Nazareth, but Jesus is born in Bethlehem because Joseph and Mary have to travel there to be counted in a census. Joseph’s occupation is mentioned only once, and he was referred to as a carpenter.

The last time Joseph appears in any Gospel book is in the story of the Passover visit to the Temple in Jerusalem when Jesus is 12 years old. No mention is made of him after that. The Gospel stories focus on Jesus’ coming mission.

The Marriage of the Virgin

By Pietro Perugino in 1503

Joseph is venerated as Saint Joseph in the Catholic Church, Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodox Church, Anglicanism, and Lutheranism. In both Catholic and Protestant traditions, Joseph is regarded as the patron saint of workers and is associated with various feast days.


Raphael was an Italian painter and architect of the High Renaissance. His work is admired for its clarity of form, ease of composition, and together with Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, he is one of the great masters of that period. Raphael was enormously productive, despite his death at 37, leaving a large body of work. Many of his works are in the Vatican Palace, where the frescoed Raphael Rooms were the central, and the largest, work of his career. The best-known work is The School of Athens in the Vatican.

His career started in Umbria, then for four years he spent time in Florence absorbing the artistic renaissance of Florence and then his last twelve years in Rome, he worked for two Popes and their associates.

The Marriage of the Virgin

  • Title:               The Marriage of the Virgin
  • Italian:            Lo Sposalizio
  • Artist:             Raphael
  • Created:         1504
  • Medium:        Oil on roundheaded panel
  • Periods:          High Renaissance
  • Dimensions:   174 cm × 121 cm (69 in × 48 in)
  • Museum:        Brera Art Gallery, Pinacoteca di Brera


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  • How does Raphael’s art differ from Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci?
  • Does this look like a scene from Venice or Nazareth?
  • What strikes you like the most intriguing aspect of this painting?
  • Why is the man on the bottom right trying to break a stick?

Twitter feedback to @joyofmuseums for the post on 11th May 2019:

What strikes you like the most intriguing aspect of this painting?

  • The use of color.
  • The young man on the right is bending (trying to break?) a strap or blade with his knee. His activity is so out of place compared to everyone else. I feel like the breaking of that object has some sort of symbolic meaning. Perhaps a reference to the wedding night?
  • The MATH!
  • The man on the right. What’s the significance of him breaking the stick?
  • Several of the wedding participants seem rather self-absorbed or distracted. Toss in a few iPhones and transport them to the present day.
  • The open space behind.
  • How the one-point perspective pulls you in like a dolly zoom and the narrative taking place among the characters/subjects of the painting.
  • How we impose our contemporary views and impressions on history.
  • The cross on the hat of the rabbi?
  • Sorrowful
  • The Temple looks like it is just the facade.
  • Without knowing if there is some symbolism to it or what, I would say that the stick guy is someone contemporary to Raffaello.
    Indeed a painting to behold.
  • Perspective, of course.
  • The segregation of the sexes and the large member of the guy in tights. Also, Joseph is a young man. Not the elderly widower in the source of the story Protevangelium of James.
  • Shows a shift in the theology of and iconography of Joseph that would become standard in the CounterReformation. He became a chaste muscular guy.
  • The guy with the stick is breaking it in frustration. Why? It has not flowered. Like the rod of Aaron, that of Joseph flowered because he was chosen to be the husband of Mary. Complex typology in the source. The big member on the guy could contrast with the chastity of Joseph.
  • She’s pregnant? Still looking for the meaning of proposal stick, and why breaking. Wow, I love Raphael’s work.
  • That perspective with other stories happening here and there behind the main scene.
  • Why is Joseph not wearing shoes..?
  • Perspective. The staircase.
  • The perspective in this painting is sick. I still remember learning about it in high school (many moons ago). Thanks, Mr. Nici, where ever you are!
  • They all look like they are natives of Norway?
  • Use of perspective
  • Symmetry.
  • The bride is wearing red. The male attendants have swords upward bound. The ‘priest’ has the strangest beard I’ve ever seen.
  • Was the painting a protest against or a proclamation of gender inequality?
  • How beautiful the people are.
  • Sorrowful
  • The Temple looks like it is just the facade.
  • The groom is barefoot?
  • That perspective with other stories happening here and there behind the main scene.
    The use of color.
  • The background
  • Joseph is the only one with bare feet, and what is the boy bending with his knee?
  • I think Mona Lisa is one of the bridesmaids
  • That the guy in the red tights seems to be bending steel
  • The depth of the painting. The perspective draws me into the scene. The foreground reminds me of ballet. So gracefully and lovingly painted, but it’s almost like Raphael reminds me that the temple is as important as the wedding.
  • Who’s cleaning those floors?!
  • …I wish my kitchen currently looked that good…
  • -The window photocall
  • -No other ones are paying attention to the wedding

Feedback on “The Marriage of the Virgin” by Raphael


“Art is never finished, only abandoned.”
– Leonardo da Vinci


Photo Credit 1) Raphael [Public domain] 2) Pietro Perugino [Public domain]

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