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Alba Madonna - Raphael - Essay Example

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Raphael's Alba Madonna, painted circa 1510 and measuring 37.5 inches in diameter, is one of the most well known examples of biblical themed Renaissance art. One of the work's key compositional features is the artist's selection of a circular framework to surround his depiction of the biblical triad of Mary, the child St John and a baby Jesus. The circle, with its theoretical and symbolic links to notions of eternity is invested with significance in the Judeo-Christian belief system. Conversely, in ancient mythology the circle often represented a serpent from head to tail - tying in with the serpentine satanic figure of Christianity's Garden of Eden. Surrounded by the circle, as the baby Jesus was encased in her womb before birth, Mary is surrounded by a miasma of potent symbolic associations - including those of creation, rebirth and destruction. The foreground scenery of the piece is relatively barren, in contrast to the reproductive success of the virgin mother. In biblical ideology, it was a tragedy for a woman to be seen as barren - as traditional gender roles determined reproduction to be a woman's primary function. Conversely, a fertile woman was seen to be blessed by God. The emphasis on a barren landscape heightens the associations of fertility connected to the Madonna, and the barren scene is broken by the appearance of two flowers - symbolising qualities of purity in their whiteness and similarly reflecting the virginal purity of Christ's mother. ...Show more


Surrounded by the circle, as the baby Jesus was encased in her womb before birth, Mary is surrounded by a miasma of potent symbolic associations - including those of creation, rebirth and destruction…
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