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“The Madonna of the Pinks” by Raphael

"The Madonna of the Pinks" by Raphael

“The Madonna of the Pinks” by Raphael

“The Madonna of the Pinks” by Raphael depicts the Virgin Mary playing with the Christ child and handing him carnations. The Italian title is the Madonna of the Carnation. The botanical name of these flowers is dianthus, which in Greek mean ‘flower of God’.  The sunny landscape through the arched window shows a ruined building, symbolising the collapse of the pagan world at the birth of Christ. The dimly-lit room setting demonstrates the influence of Netherlandish art on this painting.

This masterpiece is a relatively small devotional painted for Christian contemplation, and its owner could have held the painting in their hand. Raphael has transformed this familiar subject from the earlier formal stiffly posed pictures of earlier traditions into a new approach of celebrating the tender emotions between a young mother and her child.


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.

Exploring Raphael


  • How does Raphael’s art differ from Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci?
  • Was Raphael the leader in transforming the previously formal painting traditions of Mary and the Christ child, into a celebration of their relationship?

The Madonna of the Pinks

  • Title:              “The Madonna of the Pinks” by Raphael
  • Italian:            La Madonna dei garofani
  • Artist:             Raphael
  • Created:         1507
  • Medium:        Oil on yew wood
  • Periods:          High Renaissance
  • Dimensions:  Height: 27.9 cm (10.9 in); Width: 22.4 cm (8.8 in)
  • Museum:        National Gallery, London



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


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