(b. 1483, Urbino, d. 1520, Roma)
Madonna and Child with the Infant St John (detail)1508
Tempera and oil on wood
Szépmûvészeti Múzeum, Budapest
Raphael, perhaps the most popular and widely appreciated master of Renaissance Italy, was a man of many talents. He succeeded Bramante as architect of St Peter's and was surveyor of excavations of the antiquities of Ancient Rome, as well as producing monumental frescoes and outstanding religious compositions and portraits. It is as a painter of Madonnas, however, that he is most widely known, and his unrivalled popularity with succeeding generations has been mainly due to the harmony and beauty of these paintings. He depicted Mary as a heavenly being who was yet flesh and blood: in half-length or full-length pictures she is seen enthroned or floating through the heavens, against a landscape background or in some interior scene, alone with her Child or in the company of saints.