National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of The Small Cowper Madonna Raphael (artist)
Marchigian, 1483 - 1520
The Small Cowper Madonna, c. 1505
oil on panel
overall: 59.5 x 44 cm (23 7/16 x 17 5/16 in.) framed: 86.2 x 71.4 x 8.3 cm (33 15/16 x 28 1/8 x 3 1/4 in.)
Widener Collection
1942.9.57
On View
From the Tour: Raphael
Object 2 of 7

Raphael was in Florence from late 1504 until 1508. Seventeen images of the Virgin and Child from those few years survive today, two of them are on this tour. Probably many of these works were made for the art market—images of the Madonna and Child were often given as wedding presents—rather than to fulfill a specific commission.

The Small Cowper Madonna mirrors in style and sentiment what Raphael had seen, and helped produce, in Perugino's workshop. Compare it with Perugino's own Madonna and Child, also in the Gallery's collection. The two Virgins share a graceful turn of the head and wistful expression. Compositionally, however, the two works differ significantly. Stock figures from Perugino's workshop repertoire fill his composition. Their gestures are particular, but unrelated and unexplained. In Raphael's painting, by contrast, both figures look out to the viewer, a unifying device he would have seen in terracotta reliefs by Luca Della Robbia. The figures' interlocked gestures reveal another and more important source of inspiration: Leonardo.

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