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

Madonna and Child with the Infant St John

c. 1508
Tempera and oil on wood, 29 x 22 cm
Szépművészeti Múzeum, Budapest

Raphael set his sublime and beautiful Madonnas among idealized green landscapes, as on this marvellously fine small panel now in Budapest, which was painted at the beginning of his Rome period. The unfinished nature of the work enables the viewer to catch a glimpse of the process of creation. The idyllic atmosphere of the landscape with Roman architectural motifs complement the harmonious juxtaposition of the figures and the colours. The painting was presented as a gift to the wife of Emperor Charles III by Pope Clement XI. Later, possibly as a gift from Empress Maria Theresa, it passed into the possession of Prince Kaunitz, and from him, in the eighteenth century, to the collection of Prince Esterházy - hence its name, the Esterházy Madonna. Numerous contemporary reproductions vouch for its popularity. The preparatory sketch is in the Uffizi collection.