Raphael (Raffaello Santi)

The Holy Family Meeting the Infant St John the Baptist ('The Madonna del Passeggio') (about 1516)

About this artwork

The title means the Madonna of the promenade, and was probably inspired by the way Mary and the Christ Child appear to have met the infant Saint John the Baptist while walking in the countryside. Joseph looks on from the middle distance. The scene recalls popular stories of Saint John's youth, in which he and Christ first meet as children when the Holy Family is returning from Egypt. The young Saint's animal skin tabard, wooden cross and scroll refer to his adult roles as preacher in the desert and baptizer of Christ. The painting, which illustrates a close study of Raphael's figure types, may be by his assistant Gianfrancesco Penni.

Raphael (Raffaello Santi)

Raphael (Raffaello Santi)

During Raphael's short career he produced works of extraordinary refinement that were to have a profound influence on the course of European painting. His artistic education began in Urbino, where his father was court painter; he then moved to Florence, and finally to Rome, summoned by Pope Julius II to decorate the papal apartments (Stanze). His frescoes in Rome are perhaps his most celebrated works, but Raphael also excelled at painting large altarpieces, small devotional paintings and portraits. He designed tapestries for the Sistine Chapel, worked on architectural projects, and ran a busy workshop in which a number of the most important artists of the next generation were educated.