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.

About Dianne L. Durante

I’m an independent scholar and freelance writer /lecturer on art and art history, with forays into food, history, politics, and publishing. My most recent projects are *Innovators in Sculpture¸* a survey of 5,000 years of art in two hours, and *Monuments of Manhattan,* a videoguide app by Guides Who Know that’s based on my book *Outdoor Monuments of Manhattan: A Historical Guide.*

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