After four years in Florence, Raphael moved to Rome in 1508, probably to execute more significant commissions under the papal reign of Julius II. The major work in America from Raphael's Roman period is The Alba Madonna. In this "Madonna of Humility" the Virgin is seated directly on the ground instead of on a heavenly throne or a sumptuous cushion. The artist grouped the figures in a broad low pyramid, aligning them within a circle in such a way that they not only conform to their space, but dominate it as well. The tondo, or round–format style, was popular in Florentine painting, and the influence of the Florentine masters Michelangelo and Leonardo is also apparent in the work.

The Alba Madonna shows the Roman style Raphael adapted, in the painting’s delicacy of color and mood, with figures draped in rose pink, pale blue, and green, set in an idealized, classical landscape. The Madonna is dressed in an antique costume of turban, sandals, and flowing robes. The serene, bucolic atmosphere of Raphael's tondo belies its emotional meaning. The Christ Child's gesture of accepting the cross from the Baptist is the focus of attention of all three figures, as if they have foreknowledge of Christ's sacrifice for mankind.


  • Title: The Alba Madonna
  • Date created: c. 1510
  • Physical Dimensions: h945 cm (overall)
  • Type: Painting
  • Rights: Andrew W. Mellon Collection
  • External Link: National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
  • Medium: oil on panel transferred to canvas
  • Theme: religious, Madonna and Child
  • School: Marchigian
  • Provenance: Possibly Paolo Giovio, appointed to the Bishopric of Nocera by Clement VII in 1528; possibly from him to Chiesa di Monte Oliveto, Nocera de'Pagani; sold 1686 to Gasparo de Haro y Guzman, Conde Duque de Olivares, Marqués del Carpio and Viceroy of Naples [d. 1687]; by inheritance to his daughter, Catalina Méndez de Haro y Guzmán, later Duquesa de Alba; by inheritance to the Duques de Alba; by inheritance to María del Pilar Teresa Cayetana de Silva y Alvarez de Toledo, Duquesa de Alba [d. 1802], Sanlúcar, near Seville;[1] sold by her heirs to Count Edmund de Bourke, Danish Ambassador to Spain; sold 1820 to William G. Coesvelt, London;[2] sold 1836 to (M. Labensky) for Czar Nicholas I of Russia [1796 1855], Saint Petersburg; Imperial Hermitage Gallery, Saint Petersburg;[3] purchased April 1931 through (Matthiesen Gallery, Berlin; P. & D. Colnaghi & Co., London; and M. Knoedler & Co., New York) by Andrew W. Mellon, Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C.; deeded 5 June 1931 to The A.W. Mellon Educational and Charitable Trust, Pittsburgh;[4] gift 1937 to NGA. [1] See A. Barcia, Catalogo de la collecion de pinturas del Excmo. Sr. Duque de Berwick y de Alba, 1911: 260. [2] Recorded in Mrs. Anna Jameson, Collection of Pictures of W. G. Coesvelt, Esq., London, 1836: VII, 24. [3] According to E. Bruiningk and A. Somoff, Ermitage Imperial, Catalogue de la galerie des tableaux, Saint Petersburg, 1891: 1:137. [4] Mellon/Mellon Trust purchase date and/or date deeded to Mellon Trust is according to Mellon collection files in NGA curatorial records and David Finley's notebook (donated to the National Gallery of Art in 1977, now in the Gallery Archives).
  • Artist: Raphael

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