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Raphael, The Madonna and Child (The Mackintosh Madonna)

Key facts
Full title The Madonna and Child (The Mackintosh Madonna)
Artist Raphael
Artist dates 1483 - 1520
Date made about 1509-11
Medium and support Oil (almost entirely repainted) on canvas, transferred from wood
Dimensions 78.8 × 64.2 cm
Acquisition credit Presented by Mrs Eva Mackintosh, 1906
Inventory number NG2069
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
The Madonna and Child (The Mackintosh Madonna)

The infant Christ throws his arms affectionately around his mother’s neck and smiles at us. But the Virgin Mary’s eyes are downcast, as though her thoughts are already on his future sacrifice.

The painting probably dates from the early years of Raphael’s time in Rome. It is called the ‘Mackintosh Madonna’ after the person who donated it to the National Gallery. It is also known as the ‘Madonna of the Tower’ because of the building just visible in the left background.

The picture is so damaged that it gives little idea of how it looked originally. The full-size template drawing, or cartoon, for it (British Museum, London) reveals soft atmospheric lighting and a psychological depth that has been lost in the painting, suggesting why this was one of Raphael’s compositions that appealed most powerfully to later artists.

Domenico Alfani, who had collaborated with Raphael, probably used the cartoon as the basis for an altarpiece dated 1518 (Perugia, Galleria Nazionale).

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