pyramid composition

Raphael’s Madonna in the Meadow

The painting of the Madonna in the Meadow (also called the Madonna Belvedere) was executed by a twenty-something Raphael while in Florence. The scene shows the Virgin with Christ and St. John the Baptist in a highly serene and tender moment against a landscape backdrop which places the scene in a Tuscan setting. In addition to being the cousin of Christ, St. John the Baptist was the patron of Florence, making his presence here in a Florentine setting very appropriate.

The figures in the painting are arranged in a pyramidal composition. This is something that Raphael picked up from Leonardo, particularly his popular cartoon showing the Virgin, St. Anne, and their children, which was located in another church in Florence. Raphael also picked up on Leonardo’s use of fine chiaroscuro to model the figures so that they appear to take up actual space within the picture. Unlike Leonardo, however, Raphael used a lighter color palette that was more in keeping with the palette used by his teacher, Perugino.

Raphael has used aerial perspective to show how the landscape is far away from us, the viewer. As we look back, we can see just how idyllic and peaceful the setting really is. The landscape in the background is filled with graceful curves, and this is connected to the figures through the Madonna’s neckline and shoulders, which also curve softly.

Overall, both the physical setting and the subject matter are pleasant to look at. There is no pain, struggle, or even Leonardo’s mysterious tones present here. The only uneasy sign is the Christ Child grasping the cross of St. John, which is likely a means of foretelling the future Passion of Christ. The kind of peacefulness and harmony of the painting was held in high regard by Renaissance patrons, and after Raphael completed this work he would be asked to paint a fresco for an even more powerful patron – the pope – at the Vatican stanze in Rome.


Inspiration has been running low lately, so I decided to go old-school deviantart-style and make an art challenge! Here it my list of nerd stuff I’m gonna try to draw, posting it here both to bully myself into actually doing it, and if anyone else wants to have a go at it!

  1. excess
  2. warmth
  3. terror
  4. on point
  5. arch
  6. bees
  7. butt
  8. geometric
  9. ugh.
  10. goddess
  11. pause
  12. embroidery
  13. hella
  14. zoomorphism
  15. cobblestones
  16. scratches
  17. height difference
  18. fragmented
  19. grief
  20. fancy
  21. void
  22. woobie facing left
  23. tattoos
  24. carry
  25. crumpled
  26. non-ergonomic
  27. mumbling
  28. smooch
  29. comfort
  30. sway
  31. arrow
  32. cross section
  33. dissonance
  34. acorn
  35. pattern
  36. rad
  37. bruise
  38. gold tinted
  39. dance
  40. crown
  41. smorgasbord
  42. crop top
  43. lips
  44. gross
  45. babe
  46. flood
  47. bold
  48. pyramidal composition
  49. harsh
  50. scruffy

Instructions for anyone who wants to use it:

Don’t know what a word means? - draw what you think it means! (Or google it, whatever you want.) Want to do the opposite of a word, heck yeah go for it! Don’t wanna do them all, then just do some! If my list can inspire you to do artstuff I’m just gonna be incredibly happy, so there are no rules whatsoever. (Except for nr 7, just draw a butt, don’t be an ass.)

Allegory of the Five Senses (1640). Simon de Vos (Flemish, 1603–1676). Oil on copper.

In this allegory the five senses are represented as a merry company. Hearing is embodied by the playing musicians, Taste by the flagons of wine, Sight by the lovers gazing into each other’s eyes, Smell by the dog or pipe smoke, and Touch by both the central girl’s contact with the musical instrument and the contact between the lovers to her left. The pyramidal, Mannerist composition, the rich colours and elegant twisting figures are all motifs typical of De Vos’ work.