National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of The Niccolini-Cowper Madonna Raphael (artist)
Marchigian, 1483 - 1520
The Niccolini-Cowper Madonna, 1508
oil on panel
overall: 80.7 x 57.5 cm (31 3/4 x 22 5/8 in.) framed: 118.4 x 97.2 x 8.6 cm (46 5/8 x 38 1/4 x 3 3/8 in.)
Andrew W. Mellon Collection
1937.1.25
Not on View
From the Tour: Raphael
Object 4 of 7

This may be the last work Raphael painted in Florence before he left for Rome. It is more complex than the Small Cowper Madonna, both named after former owners, made only a few years before. The child, at once imposing and playful, grabs at his mother's bodice as if wanting to nurse. The two figures are now more closely related than in the earlier Small Cowper Madonna, both by the geometry of their poses and the intimacy of their actions. Their physical and psychological connection, so effortless and natural, is perhaps the most important lesson Raphael derived from Leonardo. (The Madonna and Child with the Infant Saint John, attributed to Fernando Yáñez de la Almedina, gives some sense of the appearance of Leonardo's own work. That painting was once believed to have been painted by Leonardo himself, since it closely follows the artist's pyramidal figure groups and modeling of form with smoky shadows.)

In Raphael's Niccolini-Cowper Madonna, large figures nearly fill the frame to concentrate attention fully on mother and child. Although presented in a moment of tender, maternal exchange, their increased size gives the pair a new monumentality. This and the infant's energetic outline suggest that young Raphael had been studying the works of Michelangelo as well.

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