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RaphaelMadonna della Sediaca. 1516oil on panelPalazzo Pitti, Florence
"A lecture i beg your pardon is to centre on one certain work the art demands a self-sufficient masterpiece. Ns hope and think the Raphael"s Madonna della Sedia, currently in the Palazzo Pitti, Florence, fulfils this condition. The is for this reason self-explanatory the it has actually proved its appeal to many who have actually never heard the surname of Raphael, let alone that the Italian Renaissance. Generations of art lovers have seen in it the embodiment of artistic perfection. Also a critic carried up in a various intellectual climate, such together André Malraux, who says that Raphael walk not move him, price quotes it together an circumstances of a masterpiece we would recognize as such if the were found in one attic without any type of labels attached to it. I think I should warn you from the outset the I have no fresh labels to stick ~ above the frame. I have searched for no brand-new link between the painting and also the literature or thought of the Renaissance. My theme is exactly that most elusive that problems–the self-contained classic masterpiece.But have the right to we still view it in isolation? Is no the popularity it once enjoyed, and also our own reaction versus it, a mental element? ns may also confess to you that, as soon as I approached the Palazzo Pitti this fall to research the snapshot in ready for this lecture, my heart sank together I saw the coloured postcards, box lids, and also souvenirs presented on the stalls in former of the Gallery. Need to I really inflict this ~ above you? A fresh encounter through the initial removed mine doubts. My doubts but not mine difficulties. For, ~ all, you have only my word for it that the paint looks various from those baneful reproductions, that the really brushwork mirrors a freshness and also boldness which banishes all assumed of the sugar-box, and that the colours, under the old varnish, have actually a mellowness and also richness i m sorry no print and also no copy can lug out. I remember in certain the warmth golden-brown of the Christ-child"s garment, as it stands out against the deep blue of the Virgin"s skirt, the dark red of her sleeve and the gold-embroidered back of the chair, and, most of all, the blending right into the harmony of that daring environment-friendly scarf which so conveniently brings a cheap and also discordant note into prints. . . . The is true that also in the Pitti collection it is not easy to involved terms through the picture. The vast golden eighteenth-century framework produces a dazzle the all yet kills the ethereal gradations of tone on which Raphael relied. As quickly as you display screen it off with your hands the picture comes come life."
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Johan ZoffanyTribuna of the Uffizi (Raphael"a Madonna della Sedia ~ above the wall at much left)1772-77oil on canvasRoyal Collection, an excellent Britain
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Johan ZoffanyTribuna the the Uffizi (detail)1772-77oil on canvasRoyal Collection, great Britain



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"Early in the eighteenth century the snapshot was admired in the Palazzo Pitti by that early champion that the timeless taste in England, Jonathan Richardson. But its true reputation only starts with Raphael"s compete ascendancy at the time of Winckelmann and Mengs and the attendant cult the beauty. A overwhelming of engraved copies by the most renowned masters of that craft testifies come the growing popularity that the work. The british Museum own a whole volume of such copies, numbering an ext than fifty, from elaborate facsimiles to a woodcut in the penny Magazine the 1833."
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John Jackson after RaphaelMadonna della Sedia1833wood-engraving (proof-print, enrolled in 1834)British Museum
"At the very same time the self-sufficient isolation that the photo began to present a problem to the admirers that made their pilgrimage to Italy. Tourists then, as now, discovered mere feather strenuous and also somewhat disconcerting. The mind shortly threatens to come to be a blank unless it is provided something come play with–a story, an anecdote, a little of gossip or background information. Guides and ciceroni then, as now, knew that this human frailty to which us art chroniclers owe so much. I intend the story which started to it is in told about the Madonna della Sedia to produce a link with the familiar human being of man must be their collective work, though we find their very first reflection in a German book for children. This book by one ernst von Houwald, published in 1820, in ~ the elevation of the Romantic era, consists of the an initial version the a legend through which the travel guide of Florence quiet regale the visitors. Together I heard it in Florence, it tells of a hermit who fled native a pack of wolves right into the branches of one oak tree and also was saved by the plucky daughter that a vintner. The hermit prophesied the both the girl and the oak tree would certainly be immortalized for this deed. Many years later the oak tree to be felled and its wood turned into wine barrels because that the vintner. The daughter married and had two children, when, lo and also behold, Raphael come along and also saw the beautiful girl v her angelic babies. He reached for his sketching material yet found he had left it in ~ home. So, quickly, he take it a piece of clay and immortalized the group on the bottom of one of the barrels i m sorry stood around."
"The explanation that the tondo-form together the bottom that a alcohol barrel admirably fill the void i beg your pardon Vasari had actually left when he failed to relate some anecdote around the picture. It easily gained currency and was even depicted by a German painter in Italy, respectable Hopfgarten. His re-creation that the illustration is now forgotten, however you need only visit the Pitti to hear a good many sport on the motif told in any number of languages come forlorn and also tired crocodiles of bewildered tourists. One overview I heard tried to revive the flagging attention of his fee by the never-failing device of asserting the the Madonna was yes, really the portrait that Raphael"s mistress, the infamous baker"s daughter. Another, perhaps an ext prudish and also less came to with historic possibilities, made her into a portrait that Raphael"s wife–though there to be no such person. However I liked best the English-speaking overview who claimed in mine presence: "Raphael had no money come buy anything, for this reason they provided him a barrel to paint on"–I may have looked up at the moment and my expression may not have actually been saturated credulous, because that the overview continued, "we have the file here in Florence". Ns am afraid i lacked the courage to inquire further. That would have been unkind. The starving genius who has actually no money because that canvas and also begs because that old barrels i m sorry posterity frames in gold is an image to it is in hugged and taken residence like part story indigenous the films, and it may have served to keep alive a faint memory that the picture, which would otherwise have joined the others in limbo."
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Johann Michael WittmerRaphael"s an initial sketch because that the Madonna della Sedia1853oil top top canvasRoyal Collection, great Britain (purchased through Prince Albert together a gift for Queen Victoria)

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Johann Michael WittmerRaphael"s first sketch for the Madonna della Sedia (detail)1853oil on canvasRoyal Collection, an excellent Britain
"But every little thing the value or otherwise of every the anecdotes and associations i m sorry have pertained to cluster ring the Madonna della Sedia, a occupational of arts carries v it the barnacles of its voyage with the centuries. That is a horrible thought, and yet, ns believe, true, the anything us say or write around a painting may adjust it in some subtle way. It reorganizes ours perceptions, and no one have the right to unscramble lock or wipe far the accents which description and interpretation superimpose upon the picture. The anecdote represented in Hopfargten"s photo turns the devotional image into a genre piece, the mature composition of a an excellent master into a snapshot-like improvisation. It is this means of looking in ~ it i beg your pardon endears the photo to the numerous who space fond of snapshots, however it has additionally served to alienate those rather who have learned come look askance at all anecdotal aspects in art. No one is the critic and historian quite immune to the suggestive power of previous interpretations. Also as sensitive and also independent a writer together Mr. Paul Oppé must have succumbed come its order when, in his beautiful publication on Raphael, he explained our paint as "a swift and also frankly reality portrait of a mom with her child, palpitating and also breathing with the warm life the the roman inn sun". For is this painting realistic? ns think that is mainly one facet which has led to the emotion that Raphael has actually here depicted a mrs of the people rather than the Queen of Heaven: the eco-friendly patterned scarf round her shoulders is undoubtedly unlike the hieratic blue coat of the Virgin. Even if it is it is yes, really a peasant scarf, together is often asserted, seems to me a various matter. The chair, at any type of rate, the sedia indigenous which the photo takes its existing name, through its elaborate turnery and also its backrest the embroidered velvet and golden fringes, would hardly have actually conveyed the atmosphere of a humble dwelling to Raphael"s contemporaries; nor would certainly the serene challenge of the Virgin have actually looked to them like that the a working woman through two youngsters on her hands. Raphael was no Caravaggio and the Roman version which motivated his Madonnas is a figment the the Romantic imagination.
There may be some need to remove that misunderstanding, for it threatens the verity of the occupational in much more than one feeling of the term. If we were really meant to relate that to picture of day-to-day life, we can feel that this connection is false and also prettified.

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The is this feeling which gift the biggest obstacle in our day to the knowledge of Raphael"s achievement."
–E.H. Gombrich, fromRaphael"s Madonna della Sedia,the Charlton Lecture delivered at King"s college in the university of Durham in 1955, reprinted in the author"s essay collectionNorm and Form(London: Phaidon Press, 1966)