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THE MADONNA OF FOLIGNO.
This picture was painted at the instance of a secretary of Pope Julian II, named Sigismund de Comitibus, in order that he might fulfil his vow. Having escaped from imminent danger, he attributed his safety to the Virgin, and presented this picture to a church at Rome, known by the name of Ara Cæli.
· Raphael had frequent recourse to this species of myga tical composition, so often produced by the Italian painters; and without subjecting himself to the laws of chronology, has introduced, in the same picture, several saints ; honoured, no doubt, by the giver, with peculiar veneration.
In the centre of a Glory, the Virgin, seated on some clouds, holds the infant Jesus in her arms, around which some little angels are perceptibly grouped.
In the lower part of the picture, the contributor, upon his knees, joins his hands, and directs his eyes towards the Virgin and the infant Jesus. Beside him, St. Jerom and St. Francis are united in prayer. St. John, partly clothed in the skin of a camel, appears to disclose to the spectator the Virgin and her son. In the midst of them, a little angel on foot, holds a tablet. The back ground represents a village, upon which falls a globe of
fire. This is, most probably, a representation of the event that occasioned the vow of the giver of the picture.
This chef d'œuvre is not inferior to any of the finest works of Raphael, who has carried grace and correctness to their full extent. In painting the figure of Sigismund, he has supplied, by an admirable expression, the want of dignity and grandeur in his model. The aspect of St. John is severe-his hair dishevelled, and his body seems wrinkled with his austerities. The head of St. Jerom presents the most majestic features; and the extacy of piety is perfectly delineated in the countenance of St. Francis.
Throughout this picture, Raphael has proved himself a great colourist. Nevertheless, the carnations of the Virgin and the infant Jesus, are somewhat red; but those of the saints are worthy of the first masters of the Flemish or Venetian schools. The accessaries, the landscapes, and the buildings, are rendered with fidelity and care.
It is not known why Raphael painted the choir of angels of a blue tint, which partakes of that of the clouds; the effect of which is by no means happy.
This picture is one of the objects of art recently transplanted from Italy. From the year 1565, it was in the convent delle Contesse, at Foligno, a small town in the Duchy of Spoletto, about eighty miles from Rome. It is about eleven feet high, and six wide.