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

Madonna and Child

c. 1503
Oil on wood, 55 x 40 cm
Norton Simon Museum of Art, Pasadena

Before his arrival in Florence, Raphael had already had occasion to compose small-scale devotional icons of the Madonna and Child, linked to a taste for the versions created by Perugino. An interesting sequence of this type can be seen in several examples, all from around 1502 to 1504, built on the motif of the Madonna holding a book. They are known as the Solly Madonna (in Berlin), the Norton Simon Madonna (in California) and the Conestabile Madonna (in St. Petersburg).

The Madonna is holding the Christ Child with great tenderness. The two are also linked as they read the book of hours that is open at the prayer of Nones, the ninth hour after dawn in the Church's day. The hour of the Annunciation, when the Virgin conceived her son, the ninth hour was also the hour of His death on the Cross. Pausing from their reading, they look at each other thoughtfully, calmly meditating on the events to come.