The one known as the Sistine Madonna or Madonna of Saint Sixtus is one of the most representative works of the pictorial production of the artist Rafael de Sanzio. Perhaps the entire work is not well known in the eyes of the general public, and yet some of the elements of the painting, such as the little angels in the lower area or the Virgin Mary herself have been repeated ad nauseam in multitude of formats.
On the other hand we must emphasize that the work that concerns us here presents a link between the typical manner of Raphael that is inserted in the canons of Renaissance aesthetics and the new models of the Counter Reformation that will be developed in the following century and find in this piece one of its most immediate precedents.
Rafael de Sanzio (1483 -1520) also known as Raphael of Urbino, is one of the most representative artists of Italian painting of all time. Together with Leonardo and Michelangelo he formed what is known as the Renaissance Triad. Rafael not only worked on painting but was a true humanist developing his skills in different fields, in addition the artist worked for some of the most outstanding patrons of the time, leaving us a vast artistic production that has survived to this day.
In reality there is not much information that we know about the origin or the client of this painting and while someart historians tend to think that the canvas must have been commissioned as part of the decoration of the tomb of Julius II (Saint Sixtus, one of the saints accompanying the Virgin, was the patron saint of the Della Rovere family to whom the pontiff belonged) others prefer to think, following Vasari, that the canvas was made for the monastery of San Sixto in Piacenza.
On this occasion the artist represents the Virgin Mary in anunreal spaceappearing from among the nine behind a greenish curtain with her Son in her arms. Accompanying Mary, Saint Sixtus and Saint Barbara are represented, who seem to engage in conversation with the viewer to bring him closer to Mary. In this way Raphael has broken with the typical compositions of the medieval Sacred Conversaziones, the Virgin is now a link between the earthly world and the divine, bringing the faithful closer to her Son, an aspect widely used throughout the baroque aesthetic. of later centuries.
Completing the composition are two little cherubs or puttis leaning on a balustrade presenting themselves with a casual gesture. Next to them the papal crown -supposedly from Julius II- rests in the lower right corner of the painting. In the work, the artist presents us with a friendly and very naturalistic composition with figures that inspire tenderness and a certain sculptural volume that gives them dignity.
The work is currently on display at the National Art Gallery in Dresden after it was sold to Augustus III of Polynia and subsequentlywas in Moscow after World War II.