(b. 1483, Urbino, d. 1520, Roma)

The Crowning of the Virgin (Oddi Altarpiece)

Oil on canvas, transferred from panel, 267 x 163 cm
Pinacoteca, Vatican

The commission of this painting, originally intended for the Church of San Francesco al Monte in Perugia, was first awarded to Perugino, who entrusted it to his pupil.

The altarpiece combines two scenes common in Quattrocento iconography: the Coronation (which occupies the upper part of the picture) and the Giving of the Girdle to St Thomas (in the lower part), an episode traditionally associated with the Assumption. The two scenes remain separate from one another, and this clear division of the composition may indicate the painter's uncertainty of his compositional abilities. Nevertheless, the forms are already mature and certain innovations in perspective - such as the diagonal representation of the Madonna's tomb - constitute a departure from traditional Quattrocento compositional types.

Extant drawings demonstrate the tremendous amount of thought which Raphael put into the panel's realization and some details, notably the highly individual faces of the Apostles and the serene landscape in the background, are quite masterful. But the most meaningful passages are found in the predella scenes: the vast space which opens out beneath the colonnades of the Annunciation; the highly animated Adoration of the Magi; and the free quality of the atmosphere in the Presentation in the Temple, which foreshadows the extraordinary spatial intuition of some of the artist's future Vatican compositions.