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Food For Your Soul

"The Sistine Madonna"

rafael Reproduction
“The Sistine Madonna” by Raphael Sanzio Reproduction given to the Sisters by Bishop Thomas Byrne of Nashville, Tenn.

The Sisters of Charity art collection has two reproductions of Raphael’s outstanding painting, “The Sistine Madonna.” The larger is a detail of the central part of the composition. It was given to the Sisters by Bishop Thomas Byrne of Nashville, Tenn., who was a friend and former chaplain of the Community. The smaller painting of the Sistine Madonna was a gift to the Sisters of Charity from Sr. Loretta Saupe. From the art collection of her father, who was an art restorer, framer and collector, this piece hung in their home for 100 years.

“The Sistine Madonna” by Raphael Sanzio is one of the best-loved paintings of the Renaissance. It was commissioned by the Benedictine monks of San Sisto in Placenza, a small town that had become part of the Vatican state in 1512. Commissioned as part of their altarpiece, the monks required the inclusion of the figures of St. Sixtus (on the left) and St. Barbara (on the right). This is the last of Raphael’s paintings of the Madonna and the last painting he completed with his own hands. Many have commented on the solemn expression on the faces of Mary and the child Jesus, as well as the pointing finger of St. Sixtus. The explanation lies in the fact that the figures in the painting are facing a crucifix at the far end of the church, and thus contemplating the conclusion of Jesus’ life on earth. In 1754 the painting was purchased by a Polish king and relocated to Dresden, Germany, where it remains today.

The two angels at the bottom of the painting have become popular figures in their own right, often featured on stamps, postcards, T-shirts, wrapping paper and Christmas cards.

Raphael Sanzio (1483-1520), better known simply as Raphael, was an Italian painter and architect of the High Renaissance. He was born in Urbino, Italy, where his father was a court painter. By the age of 17 he was recognized as an independent master painter, and in 1508, at the age of 25, was called to the court of Pope Julius II to help with the renovation of the papal apartments. In 1514 he was appointed architect in charge of St. Peter’s.

Raphael’s work is admired for its clarity of form and ease of composition and for its visual achievement of the ideal of human grandeur. He was enormously productive, and despite his death at 37, a large body of his work remains. Many of his paintings are found in the Apostolic Palace of the Vatican. Together with Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, he forms the traditional trinity of great masters of the Italian Renaissance.