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

The Canigiani Madonna

Oil on wood, 131 x 107 cm
Alte Pinakothek, Munich

The Canigiani Holy Family in Munich is attributed to the same period as the Entombment (1504-1506). The painting's name derives from the Florentine family who owned it before it passed into the Medici collection and then into Germany with the marriage of Anna Maria Lodovica de' Medici to the Palatine Elector.

The Virgin and Elizabeth are sitting on the grass with their children, and Joseph is standing over them - this shows the importance of Jesus' adoptive father, and gives expression to the increase in the worship of Joseph after 1500. In 1982 the German conservator Hubert von Sonnenburg undertook a careful restoration of this picture and removed a distorting blue overpaint, dating from the 18th century, from the sky area. Raphael's original concept, with the putti on the upper left and right, can now be admired anew.

In this work Raphael synthesizes elements drawn from Leonardo and Michelangelo and compounds them with a decisively Northern landscape and delicate colourist passages dominated by iridescent tones. The pyramid in which the figures are ideally enclosed is still drawn from models provided by Leonardo, but the relationships between the figures, developed through the glances they exchange and through the serene feelings they communicate, carry the composition onto a calmly descriptive plane. The tone of the painting is thus quite different from the tense and restless art of Leonardo. His unsurpassed descriptive capacity permits Raphael to create an image full of human participation and limpid serenity.