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

Madonna del Cardellino

Oil on wood, 107 x 77 cm
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

This composition depicting the Virgin, Christ and the young John the Baptist holding a goldfinch is called Madonna del Cardellino (Madonna of the Goldfinch). It is one of Raphael's Florentine panels, painted by Raphael for the marriage of his friend Lorenzo Nasi and Sandra di Matteo di Giovanni Canigiani. It was severely damaged following the partial collapse of the Nasi house in 1547, as mentioned by Vasari. It was subsequently restored probably by Michele di Ridolfo del Ghirlandaio (Michele Tosini), a coworker in Ghirlandaio's workshop, who was deeply influenced by Raphael.

The Christ Child is lovingly stroking a goldfinch that the boy Baptist has just given him. A symbol of the Passion (the goldfinch, because it feeds among thorns) is thus combined in a scene that can at a first level of meaning be seen simply as children at play.

The composition follows that of the Madonna of the Meadow, with the essential difference that the children in the Madonna of the Goldfinch are more firmly united with the central figure of the Virgin. The colour is more lively than that of the Madonna of the Meadow and foreshadows the colourist character of Raphael's Roman paintings. The landscape, and particularly the architectural forms it contains, reflects the influence of Flemish art, even though it is still structured in the Umbrian manner This influence was as alive in Florence as it was in Urbino in the second half of the Quattrocento. It is perhaps most visible in the sloping roofs and tall spires, unusual elements in a Mediterranean landscape. The influence of Michelangelo is again evident in the well structured figure of the infant Christ. It was to become even more evident in the works which followed.