Museums around the world celebrate the artistic heritage of Raphael (1483 -1520), as this year marks the 500th anniversary of his death. Few artists were as widely admired as Raphael, whose innovations in frescoes, altar paintings, portraits and religious paintings represent the zenith of Italian art in the 16th century. His work has influenced generations of artists, including Guido Reni, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres and the English Pre-Raphaelites.
"Madonna and Child and a Book", acquired in 1972, is the only painting of this great Renaissance master on the West Coast. Sitting in front of a distant landscape, the Madonna holds the strong Baby Christ with one hand and the other supports the book.
To focus on this intimate exchange of thoughts between mother and child, Raphael places them in a triangular silhouette of the blue robes of the Madonna. Their gentle interaction is emphasized by their touching hands and loving glances. The cloudless sky begins to darken, and shadows appear on the hill, and all this emphasizes the ninth hour after sunrise and their knowledge of the fate of the child. The magnitude of this exquisite and highly finished panel suggests that it was exhibited in a private house to help believers imagine the life of the Madonna and Child and present their joys and sorrows.
While Raphael's painting was intended to encourage meditation and prayer, his subtle psychological description of these maternal relationships demonstrates the master's humanistic and contemporary view of art.