Circle of Raffaello Sanzio, called Raphael
- Raffaello Sanzio, called Raphael
- The madonna and child in a landscape
- oil on panel
Provinzialmuseum, Bonn (on loan circa 1909-1927);
His deceased sale, Cologne, Lempertz, November 27, 1935, lot 79 (as style of Pietro Perugino);
Wallraf Rheydt collection.
F. Cohen, Provinzialmuseum in Bonn: Katalog der Gemäldegalerie, Bonn 1927, p. 154, cat. no. 213 (as follower of Pietro Perugino).
This charming devotional panel of the Madonna and Child in a landscape relates closely to a Perugino design and is strongly reminiscent of early works by Raphael. The composition is a reduction of the central portion of Perugino's altarpiece – the 'Pala di Durante' – in the church of Santa Maria Nuova in Fano, which was commissioned in 1488 but is signed and dated 1497.1 It seems likely that Perugino worked on the altarpiece over a number of years, although the central portion – in which the Madonna and Child appear – was probably begun immediately, for the two figures appear almost identically in Giovanni Santi's fresco in the Tiranni chapel in San Domenico in Cagli, executed before 1494.2 It has been much discussed whether the design originated with Raphael's father, Giovanni Santi, or with Perugino but in either case the young Raphael would have been fully aware of it.3
Perugino himself used the central motif of the Madonna and Child in several different paintings, amongst which are: the altarpiece in the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, Senigallia (where the composition is the same as that in the 'Pala di Durante', though the figure of Mary Magdalene has been replaced by James the Greater); the altarpiece in the Pinacoteca Vaticana, Rome; the smaller panel of The Madonna and Child in a private collection, where the figures are set before a parapet and have two putti above.4 The composition was extremely popular among Perugino's Umbrian followers, including Giannicola di Paolo (see his painting in the Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica, Rome)5, Sinibaldo Ibi (Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest)6, and Berto di Giovanni, who painted several versions, some of which are in reverse.7 It is also found, less often and curiously only in reverse, among Perugino's Tuscan followers including the Maestro del Tondo di Cortona (two versions: one formerly in the Holford collection, London, and the other in the National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin)8 and Gerino da Pistoia, whose painting in the Museo Civico, Pistoia, is dated 1509.9
Compared with the works of almost all of Perugino's Umbrian or Tuscan followers, this picture is clearly of better quality. The fineness of execution, sureness of line and handling of flesh tones are notably superior. X-radiographs of the panel reveal significant changes to the composition (or perhaps the painting was executed over another composition): an arm is visible upper left and two feet appear near the lower edge (images of which are available upon request from the department). A similar arm visible only through X-ray is also in a predella painting by Raphael, the Pietà, of circa 1504-5 now in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston.10 Other changes that can be seen in the composition of the present work include the right ear of the Infant Christ, his left hand which was further away, the size of his stomach which is larger, a change in position of his feet, and a change in the height of the right hand of the Virgin. All these changes point to this work as an original composition rather than a copy of an existing painting.
The painting exists in a larger version, formerly in the collection of Prince Max von Baden (1867-1929), which has been tentatively attributed to the young Raphael. That work is of equally high quality though slightly different in execution, perhaps due to its slightly different scale.11 As discussed in the context of the ex-Baden picture, Raphael is recorded as having studied with Perugino in 1503 but he was probably apprenticed to the Umbrian master well before this date.12 Scholars to whom the ex-Baden picture was shown pointed out that the painting straddled the styles of both Giovanni Santi and Pietro Perugino, and there seemed to be a general consensus that a date of execution just before 1500 seemed likely. The present panel has been dated to the same moment and by other scholars to as late as 1515.
As mentioned above, the figures' poses in the present panel are the same as those in Perugino's 'Pala di Durante' but the Madonna's gesture is ever so slightly different: it is a subtle change but a significant one since it profoundly alters the overall meaning of the painting. In both works the Christ Child stands on the Madonna's knee and clutches at the edge of her neckline while she gently supports Him with her left hand. Her right arm, however, is bent more and her left hand has moved marginally to the left, resulting in a different gesture altogether: she no longer steadies Him with her right hand (as in Perugino's altarpiece) but indicates Christ, as if presenting Him to the beholder. The Madonna and Child look to the left and right respectively but instead of looking at saints and attendant figures (as they do in Perugino's multi-figural composition), they look outside the picture space in different directions; the Madonna's gaze pensive, as if foreseeing what lies in store for Her son, and Christ's expression thoughtful. As if to underline the story of Christ's Passion the artist has painted a barren tree in the Madonna's line of sight and a leafy one next to Christ's head; both traditional symbols of the Resurrection. This is no mechanical repetition of a Perugino invention: it is a sensitive re-elaboration of a famous motif by a skilled and thoughtful painter.
1. See P. Scarpellini, Perugino, Milan 1984, p. 92, cat. no. 70, reproduced fig. 115.
2. Giovanni Santi died on 1st August 1494 thus providing a terminus ante quem for the completion of the fresco.
3. In his monograph on Perugino, Pietro Scarpellini notes that Perugino's motif appears 'ad litteram' in Giovanni Santi's fresco in Cagli. Both Paul Joannides and Francis Russell have argued that the motif originates with Perugino and was known to Giovanni Santi, particularly since both artists were active in Fano around the same time, that is circa 1488 (see P. Joannides, "Raphael and Giovanni Santi", in Studi su Raffaello, Urbino 1987, vol. I, p. 58; and F. Russell, "Perugino and the Early Experiences of Raphael", in Raphael Before Rome, Studies in the History of Art, 17, 1987, p. 189). More recently, Rudolf Hiller von Gaertringen has reasserted that Giovanni Santi, not Perugino, was the inventor of the design (see R. Hiller von Gaertringen, Raffaels Lernerfahrungin der Werkstatt Peruginos, Munich & Berlin 1999, pp. 30-31 and 212-13.
4. Scarpellini, op. cit., cat. no. 70, reproduced fig. 114; cat. no. 65, fig. 103; cat. no. 67, fig. 111.
5. F. Todini, La Pittura Umbra, dal Duecento al primo Cinquecento, Milan 1989, vol. II, fig. 1386.
6. Todini, op. cit., fig. 1361.
7. Ibid., figs. 1350 and 1351.
8. Idem, figs. 1313 and 1314.
9. Idem, fig. 1283 (detail).
10. See L. Wolk-Simon, Raphael at the Metropolitan: The Colonna Altarpiece, p. 29, reproduced fig. 51.
11. Oil on panel, 47 by 33.7 cm.. The painting was sold by Sotheby's, Baden-Baden, 5-21 October 1995, lot 2272 (as attributed to Pietro Perugino) and is currently with Matthiesen Fine Art Ltd.. For a full discussion of this composition and the complex attributional issues please see 2001. An Art Odyssey, Matthiesen Fine Art Ltd., London 2001, p. 48ff.
12. F. Mancini, Raffaello in Umbria. Cronologia e committenza. Nuovi Studi e Documenti, 1987, p. 33ff. (cited in 2001. An Art Odyssey, 2001, p. 48).