Raffael - Alba Madonna

by Alexandra Tuschka


As if Jesus were stepping down from a throne, his right foot is already touching the ground. His mother is standing in the typical colors of Mary, blue and red. Blue can be interpreted here symbolically for the heavenly sphere from which Jesus steps on earth. Mary is seen here with a Book of Hours, which we know from Annunciation scenes. These were a common medium in the domestic environment in the Middle Ages for the discussion of faith. The finger in the book refers like a bookmark to the immediacy of the scene, but also to Mary's faithfulness and inner contemplation.

In a tondo - a difficult picture format! - are Mother Mary, Jesus and John the Baptist. All three are skillfully inserted in a triangular composition. Mary has leaned against a root ledge. She is seated on the ground and is thus seen as the "Madonna del'Humilita" - the Mary of Humility.


John, in turn, born half a year before Jesus and related to him, has entered the picture with his attributes. Since he would later live as an ascetic in the desert, he is already seen here wearing camel's hair skins and carrying a cross staff. This is accepted by Jesus - and so in the figurative sense also the suffering way. The halos of the figures are still lightly and highly filigree indicated. At the beginning of the 16th century artists already slowly begin to do without it.


Raphael - Alba Madonna

Oil on canvas, 1510, 94.5 cm average, National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C.