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

Portrait of a Woman (La Donna Gravida)

Oil on panel, 66 x 52 cm
Galleria Palatina (Palazzo Pitti), Florence

An important aspect of Raphael's Florentine stay is the compositional evolution which his painting underwent. Perugino's compositions - like those of all Quattrocento masters - were based on linear rhythms. In Florence Raphael transformed his compositional type in a constructive-monumental sense. This transformation is recognizable mainly in the human figures, who are still harmonically enclosed in geometric schemes and accompanied by a clear daylight in the background.

An example of his ability to resolve natural elements in a synthetic vision which transcends particular situations is the portrait of a woman called La Donna Gravida in the Pitti Gallery, Florence. The subject is a pregnant woman, conscious of her approaching motherhood, who looks intensely toward the spectator, with her hand on her abdomen. The portrait is finely balanced. Solid forms are reduced to pure spherical volumes, overlaid with carefully chosen colours. The sense of colour which this painting shows will be used again by Raphael in his portrait of Cardinal Fedra Inghirami.

There are very few examples of portraits of a pregnant woman in Renaissance painting. Raphael shows great sensitivity for the special situation of the mother-to-be by showing both her fragility and her calm pride. Her left hand, resting protectively, gently emphasizes the swell of her stomach, while her gaze rests directly on the onlooker.