In this paper, I will discuss Rafael s Madonna and Child Enthroned with Saints and also compare it to other paintings of the Madonna and Child by different artists. I will try to prove how the paintings differ according to their stylistic period in which they were painted by focusing on how each varies. Along with the differences is a lot of similarity in the themes of this particular work of art. For instance, the way the Madonna and Child are centered and raised above the other figures, and some gestures and symbols are recurrent themes. This continuity in themes reflects Christianities views of the holiness of the Madonna and Child, but variances in the styles of the paintings reflect societies changing views of Christianity in their lives.
Madonna (the Virgin Mary, Mother of God) conceived a son (Jesus Christ), implanted in her womb by the Holy Spirit. As seen in several of the Annunciation artworks, the archangel Gabriel approaches Mary and brings her a message of her virgin conception of a baby boy, who is to be the Son of God. The Virgin Mary is symbolized for her humility and purity as we have seen in the Merode Altarpiece, where every item, d cor, and setting is representative of her sacredness and purity. The baby Jesus in Rafael s painting depicts the holiness of Christ even as a child as figures praise Him and as He makes the sign of blessing.
Rafael s portrayal of the Madonna and child is very expressive in regard to its content. He uses some of the same patterns as other artists, such as the Child giving the sign of blessing, and centering the Madonna and Child. The artist however differs from many of the other artists who try to depict the same scene. For example, in Hans Memling s, Altarpiece of the Virgin with Saints and Angels (1479), the Virgin and Christ are not elevated above the other figures. Because this is 15th century Flemish art, we know that religion had become overly commonplace to society, and they regarded whatever sacred as part of their everyday lives. Thus, placing the Virgin and Child at the same level as other figures clashes with Rafael s attempt to make them more sacred by enthroning them and elevating them on three steps. The lavishness in clothing and d cor is also absent in Rafael s version. The Flemish used artworks like this as private devotional pieces and as decoration, thus making them more elaborate. Rafael instead sets the setting surrounded in nature, and the clothing a simple drapery. The only artwork I evaluated on the clothing was a Celtic type symbol embedded on Christ s sleeve and on the thrown itself.
Another difference I quickly noted when looking at this piece is that Rafael did not depict Madonna on such a large scale in contrast to the painting as a whole. She did not appear giant size as many artists painted her. For example, in Duccio Di Buoninegna s Virgin and Child Enthroned with Saints, the Virgin is depicted as so majestic that she s triple the size of the other figures. Because of the background in societies, we see a drastic difference in the representation of figures. The Sienese had worshipped the Virgin Mary, believing she sponsored their victory over the Florentines and thus made her a large, central figure. Rafael keeps Madonna as the central figure, raises her on a pedestal, but keeps the other figures almost at the same height level. She is not portrayed to be majestic, but rather humble and holy. Instead of the halos on all figures being elaborately detailed as popular in Italy, they are simply burnished disks found in Byzantium.
Rafael was influenced by the artists during the period of this work, but also developed his own individual style. He finished the Madonna and Child Enthroned with Saints before his trip to Florence where he gained new insights toward his techniques, therefore retaining Rafael s early, Peruginesque style. From Leonardo Da Vinci, an artist of the same era, Rafael experimented with the dusky modeling but wanted to instead portray clarity in his paintings. His series of Madonna s are mostly set in a natural environment, setting the tone for a more earthly and graceful idealism. In comparison to Leonardo s Virgin of the Rocks, there are similarities and differences. For example, the pyramidal grouping of figures that Leonardo used is seen in many of Rafael s art. However Leonardo used extreme tone differences between light and dark. The light source seems to be centered and only lightening faces to make an extreme contrast against the dark background. Rafael s paintings however are more lightly toned; making it less obscure and the figures in his paintings are very clearly outlined. The rich tones of the High Renaissance are still evident, however there is more clarity in Rafael s painting. The light source appears to be in the front right of the painting as seen by the angle of the shadows. Another difference between the works of Leonardo and Rafael is their treatment of space. Whereas Leonardo uses more background in his painting, Rafael limits the space to the figures alone, with a backdrop of open space. This places more significance to the holy figures rather than concentrating on scenery.
In conclusion, I ve tried to compare Rafael s Madonna and Child Enthroned with Saints to other works of art throughout history and have shown differences and similarities in styles of a particular religious theme. There seems to be a drastic change in the representation of figures based on the time period in which the artist painted. Surrounding influences play a major role in how artists either try to conform to the times or create their own individualistic style. Rafael, even though was influenced in his time period, managed to keep is own style by depicting his paintings with clarity, and not obscuring the meaning of the piece by elaborating his painting style.