Comparison Assignment: Madonna Of The Meadow & Madonna Enthroned Essay, Research Paper
COMPARISON ASSIGNMENT: MADONNA OF THE MEADOW & MADONNA ENTHRONED
The following paper is a comparison of Raphael’s Madonna of the Meadow and Cimabue’s Madonna Enthroned. Madonna of the Meadow was painted by Raffaello Sanzio, otherwise known as Raphael, in 1505. This time period is known as the Italian Renaissance. The painting was oil on panel and stood 3 ft 8.5 in X 2 ft 10.25 in. It is now in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, Italy (Adams, 567). Madonna of the Meadow is of a classical nature, which is very common of the time period. A good example of this would be the nude characters used in the art. The medium used (oil) was also being used very widely in Italy by this time. It allowed the painter to make very realistic shades and colors. The figures and landscape in the painting also looked very fluid and real due to the use of the oil paint.
The iconography of the painting lies in the history of its famous characters. The three figures come from the Bible; however, the artist has taken some liberties. The picture contains the Virgin Mary, the baby Jesus and his second cousin St. John the Baptist. The picture foreshadows the death of Christ on the cross. This point is displayed in the action of the painting where St. John is handing Jesus a small cross and Mary is looking upon it knowing what is to come. There is a feeling of connection between the three of them by the way they are all looking at each other and the cross. Although I could find no documentation on this, I feel there is also a symbol of the trinity in the three flowers to Mary’s left side. The flowers are very prevalent and are connected to the figures in the painting by having the same color that is in the Virgin’s shirt. It is also speculated that the water in the background symbolizes the baptism of Christ by John the Baptist. The fact that Mary is barefoot in the painting indicates that she is walking on holy ground. This painting is among a series that has been called Madonna of the Lands because the Florentine countryside in the background is said to be under the protection of the Virgin, the Child and the infant Baptist. The Virgin Mary is also joined to the landscape by her sloping shoulders which make a continuation of the mountainous peaks of Florence in the background (Hartt, 470).
The positioning and placement of the three biblical characters are said to be in a Leonardesque-type pyramid (Hartt, 470). Raphael favored this style and positioning from Leonardo DiVinchi. The poses of the three are very calm, relaxed and subdued. His overall style of the painting was very realistic and smooth. The use of light was very natural and soft with delicate shadowing and a continuous flow of the direction of the sunlight. The setting is very spacious and deep and his use of atmospheric perspective is very noticeable, allowing the scene to become even more alive and believable to the eye. The halos adorning the three are also put into perspective by an elliptical shape and by being very faint. The colors and tones are very natural and soothing, much like the brushwork of the painting as well. The best description of the painting comes from our textbook Art Across Time stating that, “Raphael’s style is calm, harmonious, and restrained”.
In comparison, Madonna Enthroned has many differences although it contains two of the same characters. The painting is much larger having a height of 12 ft 7 in and a width of 7 ft 4 in. It was designed about 200 years earlier than Madonna of the Meadow during the Byzantine Influence. It is currently being held in the Galleria degli Uffizi. Its medium also differs quite much in that it is a tempera on wood (Adams, 452). The tempera does not allow the painting to look as real and as fluid as does the oil. The Christ child is very much adult-like in his appearance and gestures, nothing like the one in Raphael’s painting. It is, however, very typical of the Byzantine style as is the gold background and thin figures (Adams, 450). The figures in the painting are once again from the Bible. However, in this painting we also have angels and four older men at the bottom of the throne holding scrolls. These men depict the four prophets of the Old Testament. The style differs quite a bit from Madonna of the Meadow in that it is not as soft and realistic. The light does not seem to come from one clear direction and the illusion of space is somewhat flat and non-dimensional. A big difference is the appearance of the halos around the heads. They are very flat and non-realistic which is typical of the time period, but very unlike the elliptical halos of Raphael’s painting. The colors are not as natural and realistic in that Cimabue used distinctive golds all through the painting. The figures are not relaxed and smooth as Raphael’s. Their faces do, however, look calm and restrained, but the positioning of the bodies and expressions are not fluid and natural. The figures also seem much more confined and “scrunched” unlike the open and free figures of Rafael. The brushwork also seems tighter and less smooth almost making a very hard edge to the objects and figures of the art. The painting is, however, very balanced in the placement of the angels and the prophets around the Virgin and Christ. One aspect of the painting that is quite interesting is the use of the throne. It looks like the structure of a cathedral in an abstract way, thus tying Christ to the modern church.
Although both paintings are very different in many aspects they are extremely good representations of the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus. Despite their differences they still portray two very prevalent characters from the Bible and relate though they were created over 200 years apart.