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Raphael, 'The Ansidei Madonna', 1505

Key facts
Full title The Madonna and Child with Saint John the Baptist and Saint Nicholas of Bari ('The Ansidei Madonna')
Artist Raphael
Artist dates 1483 - 1520
Series The Ansidei Altarpiece, San Fiorenzo, Perugia
Date made 1505
Medium and support Oil on poplar
Dimensions 216.8 × 147.6 cm
Inscription summary Dated
Acquisition credit Bought, 1885
Inventory number NG1171
Location Room 11
Collection Main Collection
The Ansidei Madonna

This is the main panel of the altarpiece Raphael painted for the Ansidei family chapel in the Servite Church of S. Fiorenzo in Perugia in 1505.

The Virgin sits in majesty on a carved wooden throne with the Christ Child on her lap. She draws his attention to a passage in the book on her knee. A string of coral beads ending in jewelled crosses like a rosary is suspended from the throne, a reminder of the blood Christ will shed at the Crucifixion. The Latin inscription, ‘SALVE MATER CHRISTI’ (‘Hail Mother of Christ’), would have acted as a prompt to the recitation of the rosary. John the Baptist points to the infant Christ and gazes at his own cross, in foreknowledge of Christ’s future death. Saint Nicholas concentrates on his book.

Raphael carefully calculated the geometry of the composition, using an incised grid to divide it horizontally and vertically into harmonious thirds before he began painting.

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The Ansidei Altarpiece, San Fiorenzo, Perugia


Raphael painted this altarpiece for the Ansidei family chapel dedicated to Saint Nicholas in the Servite Church of S. Fiorenzo in Perugia. The date MDV (1505) is inscribed in gold on the hem of the Virgin’s mantle.

The altarpiece would have consisted of the main panel, featuring the enthroned Virgin and Christ Child flanked by Saint Nicholas on the right and Saint John the Baptist on the left, and a lower horizontal set of painted panels collectively known as a predella. One of the two narrative scenes from the predella, Saint John the Baptist preaching, is also in the National Gallery’s collection. The other predella scene, which probably depicted a posthumous miracle of Saint Nicholas, is missing. Each narrative scene would have been positioned beneath the saint in the main panel to whom it related.