The Madonna and Child with St John the Baptist and St Nicholas of Bari Raphael Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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The Madonna and Child with St John the Baptist and St Nicholas of Bari is a painting by Raphael, which he painted during his Florentine time.

In the painting, the Blessed Virgin Mary sits on a wooden throne and has a child (Jesus Christ) on her lap. Painted for effect instead of realism, the wooden throne doesn't have arms; the steps are steep, but they are excellently set off the arches that are above and approach to the wooden throne. John the Baptist stands on her right while Saint Nicholas is on her left reading. At the time Niccolò Ansidei commissioned Raphael, an Italian High Renaissance artist, to paint this picture for his family chapel located in a Perugian church, there were also other pictures that made up the altarpiece grouping.

This chapel was dedicated to St Nicholas of Bari; the bishop saint is seen with his attribute of 3 golden balls, which represents the bags of gold that he donated to 3 poor girls as dowries. Beads of scarlet coral, which is a common charm used against evil and the colour of the blood of Christ, is seen hanging from the canopy.

John the Baptist is wearing a crimson prophet's cloak and his desert sojourn camel tunic. Instead of his normal reed cross, he's holding a beautiful, transparent cross of crystal. He is pointing to the child Christ and looks up gravely at the Latin inscription above Virgin Mary, Hail, Mother of Christ'. The vaulted niche, which opens onto the countryside of Umbrian, as designed to appear continuous with the chapel's actual architecture. Of the predellas, St. John the Baptist Preaching is the only one remaining, the others are unaccountably lost.

There are some questions regarding the dates or date of this picture. Original understanding was that this painting was started in 1505, which fits with the style of Raphael at that period, strongly influenced by Pietro Perugino. Careful observation showed this painting was dated 1507. Based upon Raphael's style, people can fairly reasonably assume that the work started in the year 1505 and was completed in the year 1507.

In 1763, the chapel that was holding the painting was dismantled when San Fiorenzo church was renovated. This chapel was reassembled, and it contains a nineteenth-century original altarpiece copy of this painting. In 1764, young Lord Robert Spenser purchased the painting for an undisclosed amount, as a gift to Gorge Spencer, 4th Duke of Marlborough, who was his brother. The Madonna and Child with St John is currently at the London-based art museum, National Gallery.

The painting was largely influenced by the strict divinity expression of the Umbrian School in Raphael's Florentine Period. It's regarded as one of history's greatest paintings, and as such the best of Christianity embodiment. The execution was perfect and well-weathered the centuries of time test. The gold within the picture looks real, but it was painted by the effect. Another test of an excellent picture, the characters look serene. Also, the picture attracts attention to a character' soul or spirit instead of their appearance. Additionally, the beauty, contentment and joy are seen in the subject's face, not negative connotations, like vileness or pain.