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Raphael, The Madonna of the Pinks ('La Madonna dei Garofani')

Key facts
Full title The Madonna of the Pinks ('La Madonna dei Garofani')
Artist Raphael
Artist dates 1483 - 1520
Date made about 1506-7
Medium and support Oil on yew
Dimensions 27.9 × 22.4 cm
Acquisition credit Bought with the assistance of the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Art Fund (with a contribution from the Wolfson Foundation), the American Friends of the National Gallery, London, the George Beaumont Group, Sir Christopher Ondaatje and through public appeal, 2004
Inventory number NG6596
Location Room 26
Collection Main Collection
The Madonna of the Pinks ('La Madonna dei Garofani')

In this painting, Raphael transforms the familiar subject of the Virgin and Child into something entirely new. The figures are no longer posed stiffly and formally as in paintings by earlier artists, but display all the tender emotions one might expect between a young mother and her child. The pair are seated in a bedchamber in an Italian Renaissance palace, and exchange carnations, which are symbolic of divine love and of Christ’s Passion (his torture and crucifixion).

This small picture may have been intended to be held in the hand for prayer and contemplation. A manuscript inventory dating to the early 1520s states that it was made for ‘Maddalena degli Oddi, a nun in Perugia'.

It is freely based on Leonardo da Vinci’s Benois Madonna (State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg). For more than a century it was believed to be a copy, but it was rediscovered in 1991 as an original painting by Raphael.

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