A loving mother: Raphael's Madonna della Seggiola
Raffaello Sanzio died
very young, he was only 37, but in his short life he managed to establish
himself as one of the most outstanding artists of the Renaissance, capable of masterfully interpreting a timeless ideal
of beauty and harmony.
One of his greatest masterpieces is the Madonna della Seggiola, painted in oil between 1513 and 1514, depicting Mary holding the Child in her arms and in the background a young Saint John intent on watching the scene in adoration.
The title derives from the elegant golden chair on which Mary is sitting and the format of the table suggests the private commission of the painting, perhaps for Pope Leo X.
It has been in the Medici collections since the first half of the sixteenth century and is now at Palazzo Pitti, in the Saturn Room of the Palatine Gallery.
The scene is incredibly tender
and delicate: Mary holds the Child in her arms, keeping him
so close their heads touch, in a surprisingly maternal gesture, far from the
coldness of some of the Madonnas in the history of art.
The position of the Virgin, with her leg bent and her head tilted forward, suggests the typical rocking of a mother cuddling her child.
Both turn towards the viewer, Mary looks straight ahead, while the Child seems to be looking towards a further point.
As a matter of fact, the Madonna della Seggiola, is the only other Madonna painted by Raphael, besides the Sistine Madonna (1513), that looks directly into the eyes of the viewer.
This gaze directed at the viewers invites themto participate in the moment of tenderness and intimacy between mother and child and makes them feel emotionally involved.
The painting is extremely rich in details other than emotions: the golden embroidery on the back of the chair which reflect the light, the decorations on Maria's shawl, the studied combination of warm and cold tones, the first at the center of the painting, the latter towards the edges of the panel, make this work an undisputed masterpiece of Renaissance art.
to some, Raphael portrayed a young peasant girl cradling her child, according
to others it is actually the portrait of the Fornarina, a woman loved by the
artist, who already served as a model for his Sistine Madonna. It comes natural to think that the painter may
have personally known the woman in the painting and that he had a close
relationship with her, considering the extreme sweetness with which he portrayed her, but in the end,
a bit of mystery renders the artwork all the more fascinating.