ANDREA DEL SARTO
(b. 1486, Firenze, d. 1530, Firenze)

Madonna della Scala

1522-23
Oil on panel, 177 x 135 cm
Museo del Prado, Madrid

The painting contains numerous exact quotations of Michelangelo and Raphael, though these are fused by Andrea in his own assured manner that gives form to a heroic and yet gentle humanity, and in an equilibrium that both enchants and involves the onlooker.

The structure of the painting, representing the Holy Family and the Angel, is complex and based on a pyramid: at the apex is the Madonna, kneeling humbly and lovingly holding the tender boy of the Child reaching out towards the angel, who, together with St Joseph, composes the base of the composition. The links between the group and the landscape are supplied by the horizontal line of steps. On this plane he has placed the powerful figure of St Elizabeth, who, according to a story in the apocryphal Gospels, is leading the little Baptist off by the hand in order to escape the persecutions of Herod, going towards the vast blue spaces of the hills and mountains.