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

Portrait of Maddalena Doni

1504-07
Oil on panel, 63 x 45 cm
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

This is the companion piece of the portrait of Agnolo Doni.

Radiographic analysis of this portrait has shown that Raphael made changes to background, initially conceived to be an interior, so that it overlooked a landscape through a side opening, while the portrait of her husband was directly inserted into the landscape, creating visual continuity with that of his bride. These two masterpieces mark an essential stage not only in Raphael's art, but also in the tradition of Florentine portraiture which, by developing solutions previously formulated by Verrocchio in the Woman with Flowers, and by Leonardo in the Mona Lisa, come to a new natural style of half-bust presentation. Raphael distances himself from Leonardo's model by preferring to use a solid, clear approach to space, lowering the horizon behind the figures and bringing them strongly to the foreground, according to models influenced by his own teacher, Pietro Perugino and by the Flemish painters of the late 15th century, such as Hans Memling.

The fascinating use of the sfumato technique, as seen on the Mona Lisa has been replaced by an absolutely clear use of shape and colour, by a descriptive language that pauses on the detailed portrayal of the faces, fabrics and jewels. Maddalena's pendant is particularly significant, formed by a gold, unicorn-shaped mount and three precious stones (ruby, emerald and sapphire), and by a pearl, an element that alludes to virginal purity and marital fidelity.




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