Teenage Mutant Ninja Awesome (Favorites from Washington’s National Gallery, 8)

Years ago when I first started to work on Innovators in Painting (it was called the Crash Cruise Course then), I found it difficult to appreciate Raphael. He didn’t have Leonardo’s wide-ranging, sparkling intelligence and wit. He didn’t have the near-legendary stature of Michelangelo.

But Raphael has a wonderful sense of life (even his scenes of catastrophe don’t make me panic), and he has a wondrous ability to put a composition together by the combined use of linear perspective, shapes, and colors. The School of Athens is the blow-me-away example, but the Alba Madonna at the National Gallery is perfect in its own way.

Raphael (Italian, 1483 - 1520 ), The Alba Madonna, c. 1510, oil on panel transferred to canvas. Washington, National Gallery, Andrew W. Mellon Collection. Photo: National Gallery

Raphael (Italian, 1483 – 1520 ), The Alba Madonna, c. 1510, oil on panel transferred to canvas. Washington, National Gallery, Andrew W. Mellon Collection. Photo: National Gallery

What I’ll look for next time I see this

Raphael was the inspiration for many 19th-century artists, beginning with Ingres. It’s difficult to look at him with fresh eyes if you’ve seen a few dozen syrupy-sweet, simpering Madonnas. I need to look at the Alba Madonna again with Giotto and Fra Filippo Lippi in mind, instead of Ingres and Bouguereau.

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About Dianne L. Durante

I constantly seek out art that's inspiring, thought-provoking, skillfully executed, and/or beautiful so I can share it (in jargon-free language) with others who need and enjoy such art, but don't have time to search for it themselves. As an independent scholar, writer, and lecturer, I focus on art history and history, with forays into food, history, politics, and publishing. My most recent projects are three volumes on Alexander Hamilton, Central Park: The Early Years, Innovators in Sculpture (a survey of 5,000 years of art in 2 hours), and videoguide apps by Guides Who Know. Click on the Books & Essays tab for a list of all books. For upcoming projects, see my Patreon page.

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