Madonna of the Chair
"Whatever is true…whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about all these things" (Philippians 4:8).
With St. Paul's recommendation in mind, I now officially introduce to you a lovely, gracious, and excellent painting that adorns the walls of our beautiful church, a replica of Raphael's Madonna of the Chair. This work is a replica of The Madonna de/la Sedia.(or Seggiola). The original is an oil on panel Madonna painting by the High Italian Renaissance artist Raphael, executed c. 1513-1514, and housed at the Palazzo Pitti collection in Florence, Italy. Although there is documentation on its arrival to its current location, Palazzo Pitti, it is still unknown who commissioned the original painting; however, it has been in the Medici family since the 16th century.
This replica was most likely created near the tum of the century. It is in a frame that is a facsimile of the original. The unknown artist's red wax seal is still intact and affixed to the back of the painting. The painting depicts Mary embracing the Christ child while sitting in a chair as young John the Baptist devoutly watches. The Madonna de/la Sedia is one of the most important of Raphael's Madonnas.
The Madonna de/la Sedia is Raphael's most humanistic form of the Madonna.12I Throughout Raphael's life, this humanistic representation of the Madonna occupied his mind. The Madonna de/la Sedia is the incarnation of a realistic mother and child, representing human motherhood.
The Madonna de/la Sedia balanced simplification and detail with the treatment of her embroidered shawl, the directness of the figures and the touching of the two heads (Madonna and Christ child).I4I Raphael dressed the Madonna in the Italian clothing of the time.15I Mary is depicted wearing a striped headdress, which falls behind her back and compliments her richly colored ornamental dress with fringe.
The colors play an essential role in this painting, from the green embroidered garment to the cerulean blue or the juxtaposition of the Madonna's red sleeve with the Christ child's orange drapery, which adds an extra element of enrichment and a vibrancy to the color palette.14 1 The warmer colors seem to suggest the influence of Titian and Raphael's rival Sebastiano def Piombo.
The Madonna de/la Sedia has been admired by many artists, poets, and engravers. It has been copied many times over and, historically, was considered one of the most revered of Raphael's Madonnas.18I There are a few enchanting legends connected to the Madonna de/la Sedia painting. One such legend is about a beautiful Urbino peasant girl, who was as good as she was beautiful, charitable, and pious, who gave her assistance to an ill hermit she had stumbled upon. The hermit rewarded the girl by blessing her and stating that she would be painted as the mother of God. Many years later, on a sunny day, holding her infant in the garden and with her toddler son playing at her knees, she was spotted by a handsome young man at her garden gate. That young man was Raphael Sanzio, who immediately said he would like to paint her as she sat there with her two sons, later represented as the original Virgin, Christ child, and St. John (Source: Wikipedia)
A book writer purchased this replica in Italy who then presented it as a gift to her publisher, Dan Raffensperger, of Continental Press. It was in Dan's office from approximately 1998 until he very generously donated it to Saint Peter in Elizabethtown in November 2019. Thanks to Bob Dolan for introducing me to Dan Raffensperger and providing the article on the Madonna of the Chair.
All things beautiful are a reflection of God.
Fr. Bernard, OP