The Joy of Museums

Finding Meaning in a Museum

Madonna in the Meadow

Raphael - Madonna in the Meadow - Google Art Project

“Madonna in the Meadow” by Raphael depicts three figures in a meadow all linked by looks and touching hands. The figures represent the Madonna with the Christ Child and Saint John the Baptist as a child.

The Madonna is shown wearing a gold-bordered blue mantle, set against a red dress and with her right leg lying along a diagonal. The blue symbolizes the church and the red Christ’s death, with the Madonna uniting the Church with Christ’s sacrifice. In her hands she holds up Christ, as he leans forward to touch the cross held by John. The poppy refers to Christ’s passion, death and resurrection.

The painting shows a serene and tender moment and was painted by Raphael while he was in Florence and depicts a landscape backdrop which places the scene in a Tuscan setting. Saint John the Baptist was the patron of Florence, making his presence here in a Florentine setting symbolic.  The peacefulness and harmony of the painting would have been held in high regard by Renaissance patrons.

The painting is the first of a series of full-length figure compositions that portray the apocryphal encounter between the Child Jesus and the boy Baptist. The boy Baptist is supposed to have recognised Christ as the Redeemer even in their childhood. Raphael makes this clear by letting Christ take the cross from John.

Michelangelo’s influence on Raphael is evident in this composition. The figures in the painting are arranged in a pyramidal composition. This is something that Raphael would have studied in Leonardo’s popular drawing showing the Virgin, St. Anne and their children, which was in another church in Florence.

The “Madonna in the Meadow” painting is also known as “The Madonna with the Christ Child and Saint John the Baptist” and “Madonna del prato” which means “Madonna of the Meadow”.  Historically it has also been called “Madonna del Belvedere” because of its long residence in the imperial collection in the Vienna Belvedere.

Essential Facts:

  • Title:                Madonna of the Meadow
  • Artist:              Raphael
  • Created:          1505
  • Medium:         Oil on panel
  • Periods:           High Renaissance
  • Dimensions:   113 cm × 88 cm (44 in × 35 in)
  • Museum:         Kunsthistorisches Museum 

Artist:

  • Name:            Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino
  • Born:              1483 – Urbino, Marche, Italy
  • Died:              1520 (aged 37) –  Rome, Italy
  • Movement:   High Renaissance
  • Masterpieces:
    • Madonna in the Meadow
    • Ginevra de’ Benci
    • Resurrection of Christ.
    • Portrait of Pope Julius II
    • Spasimo
    • Saint George
    • Portrait of Baldassare Castiglione
    • The School of Athens
    • La Fornarina
    • Deposition of Christ

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

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Photo Credit 1) Raphael [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons