Madonna della Seggiola (Sedia)
(Madonna of the Chair)
by Raphael Sanzio
1514, oil on wood, diameter 71 cm
Galleria Palatina (Palazzo Pitti), Florence
Raphael’s Madonna della Seggiola (Sedia), also known as Madonna of the Chair, is one of Raphael’s most intimate Madonna paintings. The 1514 image of Italian Renaissance master Raphael’s Madonna is bathed in a warm, golden light. Raphael’s Madonna engages the viewer directly as she sits closely confined within the circular tondo format affectionately and protectively cuddling her young son, the infant Christ Child. On the right slightly behind the Madonna and Child, Raphael depicts the figure of Christ’s young cousin, the boy St. John the Baptist.
Raphael painted this Madonna while in Rome where it was soon acquired for the art collection of the Medici family. This depiction of Madonna and Child was painted during or shortly after Raphael’s work on the Vatican Stanza d’Eliodoro. Raphael’s Madonna was taken by Napoleon’s troops in 1799, then it was returned to Florence in 1815. It appears that the model is the same one Raphael used for his Donna Velata portrait of 1514.
One of my most favorite paintings, if not my most favorite. I came across this in one of the galleries at the Palatine Gallery in the Pitti Palace in Florence the one August I was there (five glorious VERY HOT days). I was walking thru the many galleries – stupified with the gloriousness and awed by the numbers of the incredible masterpieces – knowing that I was passing by so many that I couldn’t take in in my one long afternoon visit.
Suddenly there was this painting. Hung with dozens of other Raphaels in that room. I can feel the start and shock today as physically as I did that hot August afternoon – with the drone of a lawnmower in the Boboli Gardens and the muffled traffic noises from the streets.
No Art Historian me; yet how can any human not respond to this incredible masterpiece?
[a postcard reproduction hangs in my music room – a small token to view daily]
I had the same experience this April on my first visit to Florence. I had seen so much glorious art in the 3 days prior to this (David is still my favorite) I was becoming numb to the beauty all around me. As I walked through the Pitti Palace I was also awed by the sheer number of notable paintings on the walls. I was leaving the room when I saw “Madonna of the Chair” hanging casually at an angle by the door. The two guards at the door must have been amused at the crazy American woman who burst into tears. I remember studying this painting in high school, and it has remained one of my favorites. I sat on the bench in the middle of the room for a long time admiring this beautiful painting. More beautiful, in my opinion, than the Mona Lisa which is covered with plexiglass and impossible to get close to.