Madonna della Seggiola

1513

This painting is believed by some to be the one kept in the Galleria degli Uffizi since 1589 and by others the painting which in 1609 hung in the chapel of the Ducal Palace in Urbino and reached Florence with the legacy of Vittoria Della Rovere in 1631. It was certainly included in the works of the Uffizi in 1635, where it has remained ever since with the exception of a short period between 1799 and 1816 when it was taken to Paris by the French.

“The Madonna della Seggiola presents iconographic characteristics that in the past struck the popular imagination: the seat on which the Virgin in sitting, the multicolored scarf that covers her shoulders, and the striped piece of cloth wrapped around her head. They suggested to a German writer with a lively imagination at the start of the Ottocentro that the scene was from a fable which told how the painting was the portrait of the young daughter of a vintner with her two children, who was drawn from life by Raphael on the lid of a barrel. Others saw this as a portrait of Raphael’s lover, whom we see in the Sistine Madonna, La Fornarina, dressed as a Roman commoner. The ‘chair’ that has given the picture its name is in fact an elegant seat with a lathred, purple back decorated with gold and long tassels” (catalogue to the exhibition “Raphael in Florence,” 1984.)

The panel, which is presumed to have been painted for private devotion, is similar to works painted by Raphael in 1513 and 1514. Of the many Madonnas he produced from his youth, this is the one in which there is a greater interaction between a balanced composition and the naturalness seen in the gazes of the Virgin and child. They both look toward the observer inviting he or she to participate in the tender and intimate relationship the artist attempted to reproduce. The position of the Virgin with her head bent over creates a sense of dynamism that suggests the movement of a mother rocking her baby.

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