The Sistine Madonna by Raphael
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The painting features Madonna standing atop a cloud holding the baby Christ. The composition is balanced by her large figure and draped gown. She is flanked at her sides by Saint Sixtus and Saint Barbara. All occupy an imaginary divine space and are presented to the viewer between two theatrical curtains. Saint Barbara casts her eyes down towards the mortal congregation.
At the bottom of the painting are two cherubs that have become iconic figures in their own right. The two winged angels gaze passively upwards at Madonna. Their likeness has been reproduced in countless derivative works.
The Sistine Madonna represents many trademark aspects of the High Renaissance. The placement of the trio of figures at the top produces a balanced and harmonious composition. Raphael also achieves a remarkable aesthetic beauty and realism within the facial proportions of all of the figures. He created a depth within the painting by placing the two putti at the viewer's eye level.
The painting was bought by Poland's Augustus III in 1754 and moved to Dresden. It is now housed at Germany's Gemaldegaleri Alte Meister and is considered the highlight of the collection.