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Raphael, The Garvagh Madonna

Key facts
Full title The Madonna and Child with the Infant Baptist (The Garvagh Madonna)
Artist Raphael
Artist dates 1483 - 1520
Date made about 1510-11
Medium and support Oil on wood
Dimensions 38.9 × 32.9 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1865
Inventory number NG744
Location On loan: Masterpieces from the National Gallery, Chimei Museum, Tainan City, Taiwan
Collection Main Collection
The Garvagh Madonna

In this little picture Raphael depicts the moment when the Christ Child takes a carnation, traditionally symbolic of divine love and the Passion (Christ’s torture and crucifixion), from his cousin John the Baptist’s hand. The space between the children’s hands is the centre of the careful geometry of the composition, emphasising this important moment of Christ’s acceptance of his future sacrifice for humanity. The Virgin appears lost in melancholy thought. Perhaps she is thinking of the children’s destinies.

The picture is one of several small and medium-sized Madonnas that Raphael produced at the same time as he was painting a suite of rooms in the Vatican palace for the pope, the so-called stanze. It was probably made for a member of the papal court for private devotion, although we do not know who commissioned it. The painting is known as the Garvagh Madonna or Aldobrandini Madonna after its previous owner.

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