Madonna and Child with the Infant Saint John the Baptist; upper left, Study for the Right Arm of the Infant Saint John; upper right, Study for Drapery (recto); Study of a Nude Male Figure (verso)

Artist: Raphael (Raffaello Sanzio or Santi) (Italian, Urbino 1483–1520 Rome)

Date: ca. 1506–7

Medium: Red chalk (recto); pen and brown ink (verso)

Dimensions: 8 13/16 x 6 1/4 in. (22.4 x 15.8 cm)

Classification: Drawings

Credit Line: Rogers Fund, 1964

Accession Number: 64.47


This delicately rendered sheet focuses on a composition study for the Madonna in the Meadow, a painting in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna that is dated either 1505 or 1506. Along the top, the sheet also includes two fragmentary studies for related details of the composition. This is one of the artist's earliest drawings in red chalk. When the young Raphael arrived in Florence around 1503, after his first work in the regions of Umbria and the Marches which were considered provincial centers, he began to establish his reputation as an artist by painting numerous compositions of the Madonna and Child.

In Florence, Raphael came in contact with the work of Leonardo and Michelangelo, and it was probably these artists who introduced the young newcomer to the medium of red chalk. Raphael produced the Madonna in the Meadow for his friend and patron Taddeo Taddei, who was also Michelangelo's patron. Several preparatory drawings for the picture survive, among them sheets in the Albertina (Vienna), Devonshire Collection (Chatsworth), and Ashmolean Museum (Oxford). The Metropolitan Museum sheet is the last in this sequence of extant preparatory drawings. Scientific examination of the final painting in Vienna suggests that, as the last step of his creative process, Raphael also prepared a cartoon (full-scale drawing), but which has not survived.

The Metropolitan Museum drawing varies only in small details from the final painted panel, the most significant difference here being that the Madonna's left arm, free in the drawing, is covered in the painting by heavy drapery. On the verso of a sheet in the Albertina with a study for one of the predella panels for the 1507 Borghese Gallery Entombment of Christ is a pen design for a Descent from the Cross (see ref. Fischel, no. 182). Related to the Vienna sheet is a pen drawing in the Louvre (see ref. Fischel, no. 183) of a nude male figure hanging as from a cross; the figure is full length but derives clearly from the nude in our drawing .

(Carmen C. Bambach, 2006)