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Raphael and the Alba Madonna

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Rafaello Sanzio da Urbino was born in 1483 in Urbino, Italy. Throughout most of his early life he studied as an apprentice under Pietro Perugino, a high renaissance artist that studied alongside Leonardo da Vinci, in 1501 Raphael finished his apprenticeship and began to paint commissioned works. In 1510 he was commissioned to paint the Alba Madonna by Paolo Giovio. What materials were needed for Raphael’s drawings?

Raphael started as most artist start by drawing sketches using red chalk, charcoal or by using a method known as metalpoint. According to Angel (n.d.) “A metal point drawing is made by dragging a metal stylus over the surface of a prepared paper, leaving a mark much like a graphite pencil. Many metals such as copper, brass, silver, gold and platinum can be used to create a metal point drawing, each having unique characteristics. For the paper to be receptive to the metal, it first must be coated with a primer, otherwise the metal will not transfer.” What materials were needed for Raphael’s paintings?

Most of Raphael’s paintings were oil based paints on linen stretched over a wood panel backing and then coated with a resin and primed with lead white paint, sometimes with added chalk. Panels were prepared with a gesso, a mixture of glue and chalk. Oil paints were usually hand made by mixing a colored powder into an oil, such as walnut, linseed, or poppyseed. How do the elements of Raphael’s drawings come together to form the final composition? Raphael used color as the main element of his paintings, the rich bright colors of his paintings suggests a warm, open, friendly atmosphere. He also incorporated shading to simulate that the dress worn by the Madonna was of a soft fabric. Horizontal lines in the background also contribute to a feeling of rest and help give a sense of space. Why do you think Raphael drew before painting?

Raphael, as with most artists, drew before painting to rough out a first draft. To put an idea to paper is far easier to do because it allows one to try different techniques and styles and gives the freedom to change it around and/or start over if necessary. Once the final composition has been achieved, it can then be place in paint, which is far less a forgiving medium if a mistake were to be made.

What did Raphael intend to convey through his painting?
Art, and the commissioning of it, is usually based on who the commissioning body is. Since this painting was originally commissioned to be displayed in a church, Raphael intended this painting to be a symbol of the religious faith that was prevalent within the region. How was his intended meaning successfully conveyed through the painting? The meaning of the painting, according to religious scholars, is when the infant John the Baptist hands the cross to the Christ child, it was as he (Christ) already had an understanding of his future sacrifice to mankind.

Do you consider drawing to be as important an art form as painting? Explain your answer. Yes, drawing is just as important as painting in that they are both forms of creative expression. According to Giarrano, 2014 “I find it can help make the final painting stronger in a number of ways. After all, when you paint you’re not drawing with the brush, you’re using the skills you have from drawing to accurately assess the shape you’re seeing and then put that shape down in paint. A study is also about planning. The more you do before starting your painting, the better chance you’ll have for creating a successful work.” And I could not agree more. Upon his death, Raphael, along with Leonardo and Michelangelo, is considered to be one of the greatest painters of the High Renaissance. Most of his works, including the Alba Madonna are on display at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C.

Angel, D. (n.d.). What is a Metal Point Drawing? Retrieved from http://dennisangelstudio.com/newsite/about-metal-point/ Giarrano,
V. (2014). Why Do a Drawing Study? Retrieved from http://www.artistsnetwork.com/articles/art-demos-techniques/do-a-drawing-study-before-you-paint

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