Raphael (Raffaello Sanzio or Santi) (Italian, Marchigian, 14831520)
Oil and gold on wood; Main panel, overall 67 7/8 x 67 7/8 in. (172.4 x 172.4 cm), painted surface 66 3/4 x 66 1/2 in. (169.5 x 168.9 cm); lunette, overall 29 1/2 x 70 7/8 in. (74.9 x 180 cm), painted surface 25 1/2 x 67 1/2 in. (64.8 x 171.5 cm)
Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1916 (16.30ab)
This important early altarpiece by Raphael was painted for the small Franciscan convent of Sant'Antonio in Perugia and hung in a part of the church reserved for nuns. According to Vasari, it was the nuns who asked Raphael to depict the Christ Child and infant Saint John the Baptist fully clothed. Their patronage may also account for the painting's conservative style and the emphasis given to gold decoration. Raphael perhaps began the altarpiece in Perugia in 1504 and completed it following a trip to Florence, where he studied the work of Fra Bartolomeo. The lunette retains the purity of Raphael's early, Peruginesque style, while the boldly modeled male saints anticipate his Florentine commissions. The altarpiece remained in situ until 1678, when it entered the Colonna collection in Rome. By 1663, however, the predella had been sold to Queen Christina of Sweden. One panel from the predella is now in the Museum's collection (32.130.1). The frame, readapted and heavily repainted, is of the period but not original to the altarpiece. The azurite blue of the Virgin's mantle has darkened and the haloes have been regilt.