Welcome to the Vatican Museum Pinacoteca, also known as the picture gallery. This portion of the museum consists of eighteen rooms with works ranging from the twelfth through the nineteenth centuries. We will be focusing on the sixteenth century, which consists of the High Renaissance and Mannerism. When I say High Renaissance, I mean that one point perspective has been put into use, which was experimented with during the early Renaissance. During the early High Renaissance, Leonardo was experimenting with figure modeling with shadows, light, and color. He was interested in portraying the world as people see it. Michelangelo was experimenting with more naturalistic sculptures where the muscles flow naturally instead of each one being so defined. Basically, everyone was playing with making art look more natural and idealistically beautiful. The High Renaissance is truly exemplified by Raphael's School of Athens in the Stanza Della Segnatura. Artists' styles were constantly evolving searching for new ways to portray ideal beauty. After this work, artists started to elongate appendages for a more graceful look. Figures were brought to the foreground and the subject became less important than the beauty of the overall composition. They were also more concerned with making difficult works look easy to create in a timely manner. This ultimately became known as Mannerism. Instead of working for 3 years on a painting, artists involved with Mannerism wanted to spit them out in months.
First, we see the Madonna of Foligno by Raphael, also known as Raffaello Sanzio. The painting's original name was the Madonna in Glory, but the name changed after it moved. Sigismondo de Conti originally commissioned it in 1511 for the altar of the church of Saint Maria in Aracoeli when his house in Foligno was protected miraculously from a lightening bolt during a terrible storm. Then, it was moved to the Monastery of the Contesse in Foligno. It was moved, again, in 1797 because of the Treaty of Tolentino. On February 19, 1797 the Treaty of Tolentino between Napoleon and Pope Pius VI. The treaty imposed economic and territorial strictures on the Papacy. The papal city of Avignon was ceded to France and artistic treasures from the Vatican went to Paris; over a hundred paintings and other works of art were confiscated. The French had the right to enter any public, religious, or private building to decide what to take back to France. This part of the Treaty was extended to apply to all of Italy in 1798. Finally, the Madonna came back to Rome to join the Vatican Museum's Pinacoteca in 1816 when the Austrian army defeated Napoleon.
The patron of this painting is featured on the right of Saint Jerome who presents him to the Madonna and Child. They are seated on a throne of clouds with a storm rolling in behind them. On the left, Saint John the Baptist points towards the heavenly event that is taking place. Saint Francis kneels next to John praying. A small angel stands in the middle below the Madonna and child holding a plaque with an inscription about the painting's dedication.
Raphael painted this between working on the Stanza Della Segnatura and Heliodorus. It is said that his School of Athens is the epitome of the High Renaissance. In the Madonna, he had already achieved a mature style and was in the midst of experimenting with the use of light. You can also see this in Liberation of Saint Peter. In the Madonna, the light from the orange orb surrounding the throne illuminates the figures in the foreground. It is also interesting that in early paintings of Leonardo da Vinci, Leonardo uses a dark foil behind his figures to bring them out. While he did not have to do this for long before he could do light figures with light backgrounds, Raphael did the opposite. He situates a dark figure in front of a light source and does it realistically.
Now if you'll follow me, we will see the Lament over the Dead Christ by Giovanni Bellini. Unlike Raphael...
Bibliography: Hartt, Frederick and David G. Wilkins. History of Italian Renaissance Art.
New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 2003. 5th ed.
Partridge, Loren. The Art of the Renaissance in Rome: 1400-1600. London:
Calmann & King Ltd, 1996
"Vatican Museums Online: Pinacoteca". Vatican Museum Online.
http://mv.vatican/3_EN/pages/pin/pin_main.html (accessed May 1,
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