The Holy Family

Raphael, The Canigiani Holy Family, around 1505/1506

By Alte Pinakothek, Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen

Alte Pinakothek, Bavarian State Painting Collections

The Canigiani Holy Family (around 1505/1506) by RaphaelOriginal Source: Object in the Online-Collection of the Pinakotheken

This devotional painting, commissioned by the Florentine merchant Domenico Canigiani, was one of the masterpieces in the Medici Collection that were presented in the so-called Tribuna in the Uffizi at the end of the sixteenth century.

St. Joseph, standing in the centre of the painting, unites the harmonious composition of figures in their pyramidal structure.

Through his dialogue with Saint Elizabeth, he is prominently involved in the complex emotional entanglement of the protagonists.

After his years as a pupil of Perugino, Raphael was active in Florence between 1504 and 1508. There, as can be seen in this composition, he was inspired by Leonardo and Michelangelo.

The Italian masters of the Renaissance presented the saints in their devotional pictures in front of wide landscapes with views of the city. In doing so, they followed the example of Old Dutch painting, which was particularly popular in Florence. Thus Raphael also quoted the architecture north of the Alps, which incidentally serves the purpose of locating the events portrayed abroad.

There is no mention of an encounter between Christ and John als little boys anywhere in the Bible. The numerous depictions of this encounter are based on the life stories of John, who is venerated in Florence as the patron saint of the city.

The Child Jesus seizes the scripture with the prophecy of John: "Behold, this is the Lamb of God".

Raphael signed his painting, created in Florence, on the neckline of the Virgin Mary's robe. With the note "RAPHAEL . VRBINAS", the pupil of the Umbrian master Perugino, who came from Urbino in the Marche, confidently documents that he is not a Florentine painter.

Raphael worked in the Tuscan art metropolis for only four years, from 1504 to 1508, before continuing his great career in Rome. The Florentine merchant Domenico Canigiani probably ordered the painting on the occasion of his wedding. Later it is owned by the Medici family.

As a present from Cosimo III, the Grand Duke of Tuscany, to his son-in-law, Johann Wilhelm II, the Elector Palatine, the painting entered the Düsseldorf Residence in 1697. In 1806 it reached Munich as part of the Düsseldorf Collection.

The foundation stone for the Alte Pinakothek was laid in 1826 on Raphael’s birthday. As such, he became the patron of the museum built in the Roman-Florentine Renaissance style.

In 1755 the painting was inappropriately restored. The French restorer François-Louis Collins damaged the angels’ heads and subsequently overpainted the upper section of the picture.

In 1983 the Canigiani Holy Family was restored to mark the 500th anniversary of Raphael’s birth. In the process, the eight angels floating in clouds, came back to light.

Credits: Story

© Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen

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