Title: Madonna del Cardellino [Madonna of the Goldfinch] (1505-1506)
Location: Uffizi Gallery Florence, Italy
Medium: Oil on Wood
Dimensions: 107 cm x 77 cm (42 in. x 30 in.)
Raffeallo Sanzio, also known as Raphael, was born on April 6, 1483 in Urbino, Italy. Raphael’s father, Giovanni Santi, was a painter for the Duke of Urbino. It was his father who first gave him an interest in painting. Santi taught Raphael basic painting techniques and taught him some of the basics of human philosophy at a young age. Upon his father’s sudden death in 1494, Raphael was given the job of managing his father’s workshop. His work quickly became popular, however, and he was commissioned to paint in churches when he was still a teen. When he was around seventeen years old, Raphael became an apprentice of Italian painter Pietro Perugino in Perugia. Through this internship, Raphael got hands-on experience and began to develop his own style of painting. He then moved to Florence and began painting a variety of “Madonnas.” He was influenced by Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo and studied their works carefully, which gave him even more passion for his paintings. In 1508, Raphael moved to Rome, where he painted a several rooms in the Vatican. After a few years, he was able to hire assistants to help him finish. He then changed his focus from painting to architecture. Designs were created for Santa Maria del Popolo Chapel located in Rome and an area in the new St. Peter’s basilica. Raphael died on his 37th birthday of unknown reasons in Rome. His tomb is in the Pantheon.
In the “Madonna of the Goldfinch,” the Virgin Mary is seen with baby Jesus and his cousin, John the Baptist. Symbolism is present in the painting. St. John is holding a goldfinch, in his hand while Jesus touches the bird’s head. This symbolism may often go unnoticed because of the connection between a goldfinch and Jesus. The goldfinch is a bird that feeds among thorns, indicating Jesus’ future death. Mary is holding a book in her hand, perhaps to show her wisdom. She looks towards the goldfinch and John the Baptist. She, too, knows the future of her son. The colors that are used balance the painting well. The red could possibly signify Christ’s love and bloodshed. Blue, a color of royalty, stabilizes the artwork and provides tranquil sense, much like the images background. The three figures are also in a triangular shape, once again balancing the painting. It is believed that Raphael played a role in the movement towards mannerism that occurred in the years to follow. Perhaps this can be seen in this painting when observing the baby Jesus’ body shape, head, and standing position.
I find this painting to be welcoming. The symbolism behind it has darker tones. Yet, the painting itself is warm. The landscape of the painting is detailed and beautiful. Mountains reach back as far as the eyes can see. Little flowers line the walkway. Even John the Baptist’s hair curls are specific and capture the viewer. A strong family relationship is evident here, as well. Jesus stands on his mother’s feet, and rests his body on the side of her leg. John the Baptist is on the other side of Mary’s leg, slightly smiling at his cousin. The viewer is invited to enjoy these simple family bonds.