Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Marriage of the Virgin, painting by Raphael

Image: The Marriage of the Virgin (1504), painting by Raphael, oil on round-headed panel, dimensions 170 cm x 118 cm, located at Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan, Italy.

The Marriage of the Virgin, the 1504 painting by the Italian painter Raphael, is housed in the Pinacoteca di Brera of Milan. According to critics, the painting was inspired by two compositions by Perugino, ‘Christ Delivering the Keys to St. Peter’ and ‘The Marriage of the Virgin’ now in the Museum of Caën.

The main characters of ‘The Marriage of the Virgin’ stand in the foreground: Joseph is solemnly placing the marriage ring on the Virgin's finger and holding the flowering staff, the symbol that he is the chosen one, in his left hand. His wooden staff has blossomed, while those of the other suitors have remained dry. Two of the disappointed suitors are breaking their staffs. The polygonal temple in the background dominates the composition of the painting. The temple is the centre of a radial system composed of the steps, portico, buttresses and drum and extended by the pavement.

Caught at the culminating moment of the marriage ceremony, the people attending the wedding also repeat the circular rhythm of the composition. The three main characters and two members of the marriage party are set in the foreground, while others are arranged in depth, progressively farther away from the central axis. This axis, marked by the wedding ring, divides the paved surface and the temple into two symmetrical parts.

The painting (signed and dated: RAPHAEL URBINAS MDIIII) was commissioned by the Albizzini family for the chapel of St Joseph in the church of S. Francesco of the Minorities at Città di Castello in Umbria. In 1798 the town was forced to donate the painting to General Giuseppe Lechi, an army officer, who sold it to the Milanese art dealer Sannazzari, who bequeathed it to the main hospital of Milan in 1804. Two years later it was acquired by the Academy of Fine Arts and was exhibited at the Brera.

The painting was attacked by vandals some years ago. The signed and dated painting, ‘The Marriage of the Virgin’ by Raphael is a particularly beloved painting by Raphael and one of the unparalleled favorites of the Renaissance period. The painting is specially noted because Raphael made the transition from a devoted follower of Perugino to an artist who represents the epitome of the Renaissance. Also, this painting is of special importance because it was executed immediately before Raphael went to Florence where he experienced firsthand the sculpture of Donatello as well as the works of his most famous older contemporaries, Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo.

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