The Joy of Museums

Finding Meaning in Art & History

The Alba Madonna

Raphael - The Alba Madonna - Google Art Project

“The Alba Madonna” by Raphael depicts three figures all staring at the cross. The three figures are grouped to the left in the round design, but the outstretched arm of the Madonna and the material of her cloak balance the image. The figures represent the Madonna with the Christ Child and Saint John the Baptist as a child.

The Madonna is shown wearing a 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 lap she holds Christ, as he stretches out to touch the cross held by John.

The painting 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.

Raphaël - Étude Madone d'Albe 1

Raphael’s study for what became the Alba Madonna, with other sketches

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.

Raphael’s paintings of the Madonna and Child Christ include:

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.

Essential Facts:

  • Title:                The Alba Madonna
  • Artist:              Raphael
  • Created:          1510
  • Medium:         oil on panel mounted on canvas
  • Periods:           High Renaissance
  • Dimensions:   94.5 cm diameter ( 37 1⁄4 in)
  • Museum:         National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

Artist:

  • Name:            Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino
  • Born:              1483 – Urbino, Marche, Italy
  • Died:              1520 (aged 37) –  Rome, Italy
  • Movement:   High Renaissance
  • Masterpieces:

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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