Skip to Main Content


After four years in Florence, Raphael moved to Rome in 1508, probably to execute more significant commissions under the papal reign of Julius II. The major work in America from Raphael's Roman period is The Alba Madonna. In this "Madonna of Humility" the Virgin is seated directly on the ground instead of on a heavenly throne or a sumptuous cushion. The artist grouped the figures in a broad low pyramid, aligning them within a circle in such a way that they not only conform to their space, but dominate it as well. The tondo, or round–format style, was popular in Florentine painting, and the influence of the Florentine masters Michelangelo and Leonardo is also apparent in the work.

The Alba Madonna shows the Roman style Raphael adapted, in the painting’s delicacy of color and mood, with figures draped in rose pink, pale blue, and green, set in an idealized, classical landscape. The Madonna is dressed in an antique costume of turban, sandals, and flowing robes. The serene, bucolic atmosphere of Raphael's tondo belies its emotional meaning. The Christ Child's gesture of accepting the cross from the Baptist is the focus of attention of all three figures, as if they have foreknowledge of Christ's sacrifice for mankind.


Possibly Paolo Giovio, appointed to the Bishopric of Nocera by Clement VII in 1528; possibly from him to Chiesa di Monte Oliveto, Nocera de'Pagani; sold 1686 to Gasparo de Haro y Guzman, Conde-Duque de Olivares, Marqués del Carpio and Viceroy of Naples [d. 1687]; by inheritance to his daughter, Catalina Méndez de Haro y Guzmán, later Duquesa de Alba; by inheritance to the Duques de Alba; by inheritance to María del Pilar Teresa Cayetana de Silva y Alvarez de Toledo, Duquesa de Alba [d. 1802], Sanlúcar, near Seville;[1] sold by her heirs to Count Edmund de Bourke, Danish Ambassador to Spain; sold 1820 to William G. Coesvelt, London;[2] sold 1836 to (M. Labensky) for Czar Nicholas I of Russia [1796-1855], Saint Petersburg; Imperial Hermitage Gallery, Saint Petersburg;[3] purchased April 1931 through (Matthiesen Gallery, Berlin; P. & D. Colnaghi & Co., London; and M. Knoedler & Co., New York) by Andrew W. Mellon, Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C.; deeded 5 June 1931 to The A.W. Mellon Educational and Charitable Trust, Pittsburgh;[4] gift 1937 to NGA.

Exhibition History

Berenson and the Connoisseurship of Italian Painting, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1979, no. 113, repro.
Raphael and America, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1983, no. 92, repro.
Masterpieces from the World's Museums in the Hermitage: Raphael's Madonna with Christ and St. John the Baptist (The Madonna Alba) from the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, 2004, no cat.
Raphael: From Urbino to Rome, National Gallery, London, 2004-2005, no. 93, as The Virgin and Child with Saint John (The Alba Madonna), repro.


Wrangell, Baron Nicolas. Les Chefs-d'Oeuvre de la Galérie de Tableaux de l'Hermitage Impérial à St-Pétersbourg. London, 1909: repro. 11.
Meissner, Carl. "Raphaels Madonna di Gaeta und Madonna Alba." Kunstauktion 3, no 30 (28 July 1929): 9, repro.
"Um die Gaeta Madonna." Kunstauktion 3, no. 34 (29 August 1929):6.
Tietze, Hans. Meisterwerke europäischer Malerei in Amerika. Vienna, 1935: 79, repro. (English ed., Masterpieces of European Painting in America. New York, 1939: 79, repro.).
Cortissoz, Royal. An Introduction to the Mellon Collection. Boston, 1937: repro. frontispiece
Jewell, Edward Alden. "Mellon's Gift." Magazine of Art 30, no. 2 (February 1937): 82.
"Trends: Art." American Architect and Architecture. 150 (March 1937): 4, repro.
Preliminary Catalogue of Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1941: 162, no. 24, pl. VIII.
Book of Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1942: 239, repro. 174.
Cairns, Huntington, and John Walker, eds. Masterpieces of Painting from the National Gallery of Art. New York, 1944: 48, color repro.
Favorite Paintings from the National Gallery of Art Washington, D.C.. New York, 1946: 11-14, color repro.
Paintings and Sculpture from the Mellon Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1949 (reprinted 1953 and 1958): 29, repro.
Einstein, Lewis. Looking at Italian Pictures in the National Gallery of Art. Washington, 1951: 58-59, repro.
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1956: 20, color repro.
Shapley, Fern Rusk. Comparisons in Art: A Companion to the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. London, 1957 (reprinted 1959): pl. 26.
Shapley, Fern Rusk. Later Italian Painting in the National Gallery of Art. Washington, D.C., 1960 (Booklet Number Six in Ten Schools of Painting in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.): 42, color repro. on cover.
The National Gallery of Art and Its Collections. Foreword by Perry B. Cott and notes by Otto Stelzer. National Gallery of Art, Washington (undated, 1960s): 25.
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. New York, 1963 (reprinted 1964 in French, German, and Spanish): 134, repro.
Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 107.
Cairns, Huntington, and John Walker, eds. A Pageant of Painting from the National Gallery of Art. 2 vols. New York, 1966: 1:130, color repro.
Walton, William. "Parnassus on Potomac." Art News 65 (March 1966): 38, repro. 39.
Berenson, Bernard. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance. Central Italian and North Italian Schools. 3 vols. London, 1968: 1:355.
Gandolfo, Giampaolo et al. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Great Museums of the World. New York, 1968: 12, 43, 45, color repro.
National Gallery of Art. European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. Washington, 1968: 95, repro.
Finley, David Edward. A Standard of Excellence: Andrew W. Mellon Founds the National Gallery of Art at Washington. Washington, 1973: 22, 24 repro., 152-153, 156.
European Paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1975: 280, repro.
Wasserman, Jack. "The Genesis of Raphael's Alba Madonna." Studies in the History of Art vol. 8 (1978):35-61, repro.
Shapley, Fern Rusk. Catalogue of the Italian Paintings. 2 vols. Washington, 1979: 1:386-389; 2:pl. 277.
Thomas, Denis. The Face of Christ. London, 1979: 78, repro.
Watson, Ross. The National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1979: 35, pl. 19.
Williams, Robert C. "The Quiet Trade: Russian Art and American Money." The Wilson Quarterly, Vol. 3 (Winter 1979): 162-163, repro.
Alsop, Joseph. The Rare Art Traditions: The History of Art Collecting and Its Linked Phenomena Wherever These Have Appeared. Bollingen series 35, no. 27. New York, 1982: 452.
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 178, no. 199, color repro.
European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985: 325, repro.
Christensen, Carol. "Examination and Treatment of Paintings by Raphael at the National Gallery of Art." Studies in the History of Art 17 (1986):47-48, 52-54, repro.
Wheeler, Marion, ed. His Face--Images of Christ in Art: Selections from the King James Version of the Bible. New York, 1988: 126, no. 16, color repro.
Kopper, Philip. America's National Gallery of Art: A Gift to the Nation. New York, 1991: 20, 23, 91, 143, 170, color repro.
Morandotti, Alessandro. "La fortuna collezionistica della pittura gotica e rinascimentale fra Ottocento e Novecento." In Mauro Natale, ed. Pittura italiana dal '300 al '500. Milan, 1991: 39.
National Gallery of Art. National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1992: 30, repro.
Honour, Hugh and John Fleming. A World History of Art. 7th ed. New York, 2005: 469, 470, color fig. 11.17.
Landi, Ann. "150 Years of Helping Shape a Nation's Taste." New York Times (December 1, 1996): 46.
Wallis, Stephen. "Sketchbook: Knoedler Turns 150." Art & Antiques 19, no. 10 (November 1996): 18.
Shaw-Eagle, Joanna. "Christ's Birth Gave Birth to Astounding Images: Gallery Glitters with holy Masterpieces." Washington Times (December 21, 1997): D1, D5, repro.
Buck, Stephanie and Peter Hohenstatt. Raffeallo Santi, known as Raphael, 1483-1520. Konemann, 1998: 76-77, repro. no. 97.
Hand, John Oliver. National Gallery of Art: Master Paintings from the Collection. Washington and New York, 2004: 80-81, no. 56, color repro.
Rosenberg, Pierre. Only in America: One Hundred Paintings in American Museums Unmatched in European Collections. Milan, 2006: 17.
Odom, Anne, and Wendy R. Salmond, eds. Treasures into Tractors: The Selling of Russia's Cultural Heritage, 1918-1938. Washington, 2009: 91, 106 n. 8, 131, 135 n. 6, 202.
Kustodieva, Tat'jana. Museo Statale Ermitage: La pittura italiana dal XIII al XVI secolo. Milan, 2011: 18.
Acres, Alfred. Renaissance Invention and the Haunted Infancy. London and Turnhout, 2013: 59, fig. 24.
Harris, Neil. Capital Culture: J. Carter Brown, the National Gallery of Art, and the Reinvention of the Museum Experience. Chicago and London, 2013: 44, 459-460.
Hodge, Susie. Raphael: His Life and Works in 500 Images. Wigston, Leicestershire, 2013: 164, color fig.
Semyonova, Natalya, and Nicolas V. Iljine, eds. Selling Russia's Treasures: The Soviet Trade in Nationalized Art 1917-1938. New York and London, 2013: 138, 139, 170, 202, repro.
Mims, Bryan. "Asheville's Fortress of Art." Our State Down Home in North Carolina (1 October 2014): 40-42, 44, repro.
Jaques, Susan. The Empress of Art: Catherine the Great and the Transformation of Russia. New York, 2016: 395, 398.
Warner-Johnson, Tim, and Jeremy Howard, eds. Colnaghi: Past, Present and Future: An Anthology. London, 2016: 4-5, color fig. 6.
Cavazzini, Patrizia. "Raphael 1520-1483." Exhibition review. Burlington 162, no. 1,412 (November 2020): 984, 985, color fig. 9.
Kondziella, Martha. Sodoma: Die Tafel- und Leinwanbilder. Merzhausen, 2023: 199-200.
Pergam, Elizabeth A. "Collecting the United States: William F. Davidson and the westward expansion of M. Knoedler & Co." Colnaghi Studies Journal 12 (March 2023): 114, fig. 1, 117.

Related Content

  • Sort by:
  • Results layout:
Show  results per page
The image compare list is empty.