The Marriage of the Virgin by Raffaello (1504)

Brera Pinacoteca, Milan


At the Brera Pinacoteca, one of the most important museums in Milan, you can admire alongside the masterpieces of Mantegna, Bellini, Caravaggio and Hayez, a jewel of Renaissance art: "The Marriage of the Virgin" by Raphael (1504).

Born under the influence of the master Perugino who the year before had painted a composition of the same name, this work marks, with some slight but significant changes, the beginning of the artist's maturity and stylistic identity.

The two spouses exchanging rings, portrayed at the center of the scene together with the officiating priest, are Mary and Joseph, adorned with colorful robes and surrounded by a group of women and men who attend the ceremony.

The episode is narrated in the apocryphal protoevangelium of John, according to which Mary, after having spent her childhood in the Temple of Jerusalem as a consecrated woman, would have been given in foster care, and subsequently in wife, to the suitor whose stick had manifested a sign of the presence of the Lord. While those of the other aspirants remained inert, as shown by the character on the right intent on breaking his dry stick, Joseph's one blossomed (as can be seen from the floral detail on the tip) and after a while a dove emerged, a sign of the blessing.

The entire composition is dominated by extreme proportion, harmony, grace and beauty.

As is typical of Raphael, the faces of the characters do not betray intense emotions and the purpose of the work is not to describe the interiority of the characters but to represent the overall unity of what is taking place under the eyes of the spectator: the marriage between Mary and Joseph, and its historical and spiritual significance with what will ensue.

The optical center of the painting is in fact represented by the Temple in the background and in particular by the two open doors that allow a glimpse of the landscape behind and give the viewer the impression that what is being celebrated just below will find a natural continuation towards that infinite view.

Pause to look at the full-bodied colors of the garments of the characters, the hairstyles of the women and the hats of the men, the perspective lines of the pavement, the slender temple that seems to attract the entire composition with its rays, the details of the clothes and the temple; perhaps compare Raphael's painting with the homonymous one by Perugino, his teacher.

Despite the similarities, you will find in this work, a momentum, a dynamism and a softness of the bodies that make the young Raphael a promise of Renaissance art.



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