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The Alba Madonna by Raphael

Raphael - The Alba Madonna - Google Art Project

“The Alba Madonna” by Raphael

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

The painting is full of symbolism with Madonna shown wearing a blue mantle, set against a red dress and with her right leg lying along a diagonal. The blue symbolises 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 carried by John.

Raphael painted this painting while he was in Florence and shows 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 of 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. In Christian traditions, 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.

Leonardo’s influence on Raphael is evident in this composition, by the arrangement of the figures into a pyramidal composition. This pyramidal composition is something that Raphael would have studied in Leonardo’s famous drawing of “The Virgin and Child with St. Anne”, which was in another church in Florence.

Exploring Raphael

The Alba Madonna

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



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


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