Collection online

drawing / cartoon

  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Description

    The Virgin and child: cartoon; the Virgin half-length, Christ standing with his arms around his mother Black chalk and/or charcoal, touches of white chalk, pricked and indented for transfer, on two conjoined sheets; framed

  • Producer name

  • School/style

  • Date

    • 1509-1511
  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 707 millimetres
    • Width: 533 millimetres
  • Curator's comments

    Amended version of the entry for the National Gallery 2004 Raphael exhibition:

    This is a cartoon for a painting in the National Gallery of the 'Virgin and Child' (NG 2069), a work generally known as the 'Mackintosh Madonna' after its donor Miss Eva Mackintosh. The NG picture is in a ruinous and repainted condition, in part due to it having been transferred from panel to canvas in the 18th century. Although the cartoon is in a better state than the painting it too has suffered: the chalk or charcoal (or perhaps a combination of the two) and the paper are much abraded. As a result, in the more shadowed areas the tonal gradations and the underlying modelling of form have been blurred to a virtually impenetrable blackness. This is especially apparent in the passages around Christ's left leg and in the Virgin's drapery at the lower right corner. These damaged areas can be interpreted by comparison with the ruined original, and conversely some idea of the original quality of the painting can be gained through study of the cartoon. For example, the drawing indicates that the artist intended the figures to be bathed in a soft Leonardesque twilight, the lighting emphasising the fleshy rounded contours of their faces. The subtlety of Raphael's characterisation of mother and child is similarly more readily appreciable in the drawing: the artist adds a new note of poignancy to his depiction of the Virgin and Child by contrasting the joyous display of filial affection on the part of Christ Child (his smiling expression reminiscent of the infant in the silverpoint study of the same period in the BM, 1866,0714.79/ Pouncey and Gere no. 24) with the withdrawn pensiveness of his mother. The slight turn of the Virgin's head away from her child and her lowered eyes eloquently convey a sense of the burden she has to endure, her thoughts clouded, even in moments of such intimacy, by the knowledge of her son's fate. Such telling details give the composition a psychological depth not found in the quattrocento sculptural models on which it is based. It is particularly close in the arrangement of the figures to a glazed terracotta relief by Luca della Robbia: the 'Bliss Madonna' in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York and the 'Shaw Madonna' in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Thanks to the cartoon we are afforded some idea of the Mackintosh Madonna's former appeal and can see why it was one of Raphael's compositions that appealed most powerfully to later artists - it was copied in the 17th century by Sassoferrato and in the 19th by Ingres.

    The cartoon is remarkably free in execution; the artist's search for his preferred solution is visible in passages such as the flurry of lines around the Virgin's left shoulder and arm. In this, as well as in the markedly tonal nature of the modelling of form, it is closer to the Louvre cartoon fragment for the head of God the Father in the 'Disputa' of c.1508-9 (Joannides 1983, no. 226) than to slightly earlier cartoon such as that in the Louvre for the NG 'St Catherine' executed around 1507 (Joannides 1983, no. 160). The 'Mackintosh Madonna' is generally dated to the period of Raphael's work in the Stanza della Segnatura (1509-11), and a sense of his confidence and creative vitality, born from his mastery of this enormously ambitious project, can perhaps be felt in the assured and fluid draughtsmanship of the cartoon. Clearly even at this last preparatory stage Raphael was willing to explore refinements to the poses established in earlier, and now lost, studies. The outlines of the figures have been carefully pricked and also show signs of having been incised with a stylus, although the method of transfer Raphael employed for the National Gallery painting cannot be determined. The incised or indented contours may have come about because a copy was made after the design (the verso of the sheet would be rubbed with black chalk so that it acted like carbon paper), and indeed the popularity of the composition is proved by a smaller-scale reprise of the two figures in a painting of the Virgin with Saints Gregory and Nicholas in the Galleria Nazionale dell'Umbria, Perugia by Domenico Alfani of 1518 (illustrated in Bambach 1999, fig. 98). The latter was a Perugian artist who had collaborated with Raphael and is known to have been sent a compositional drawing by Raphael to help in the painting of an altarpiece. A curious feature of the present cartoon is that Raphael has not drawn in chalk the billowing fold of drapery around the Virgin's left elbow, a detail found in the finished work, although careful scrutiny of the area reveals that there are pricked lines describing its form. Raphael may have studied this area in a separate drawing on the same scale and then had the alteration transferred to the cartoon, or he may simply have made a sketch of the drapery and instructed the assistant wielding the pin to follow that.

    Lit.: P. Pouncey and J.A. Gere, 'Italian Drawings in the BM, Raphael and His Circle', London, 1962, I, no. 26, II, pl. 31; J.A. Gere and N. Turner in exh. cat. BM, 'Drawings by Raphael', 1983, no.119; P. Joannides, 'The Drawings of Raphael', Oxford, 1983, no. 277; E. Knab, E. Mitsch, K. Oberhuber, 'Raphael Die Zeichnungen', Stuttgart, 1983, no. 323; A. Weston Lewis, in exh. cat., Edinburgh, National Gallery of Scotland, 'Raphael: the pursuit of perfection', 1994, no. 28; C C. Bambach, 'Drawing and Painting in the Italian Renaissance Workshop: Theory and Practice, 1300-1600', Cambridge, 1999. p.105, fig. 97; H. Chapman, in exh. cat. (by H. Chapman, T. Henry. C. Plazzotta et al), London, National Gallery, 'Raphael: from Urbino to Rome', 2004, no. 98

    This drawing was issued as a coloured collotype facsimile by the British Museum in 'British Museum Facsimiles of Drawings and Water-colours, Nos. 1 - 14', where it was number 5 and described there as 'Raphael. The Virgin and Child. Cartoon related to the Madonna of the Tower in the National Gallery.'; (Shelfmark 245*.b.11).


  • Bibliography

    • Pouncey & Gere 1962 26 bibliographic details
  • Location

    Not on display (Italian Framed XVIc)

  • Exhibition history

    1962-1963 Nov-Sep, BM, Raphael and his Circle (P+G) 1975, London, National Gallery, The Renaissance, no. 233 1983, BM, Drawings by Raphael, no. 119 1994 May-July, Edinburgh, National Gallery of Scotland, Raphael, no. 28 1990 April-Aug, BM, Treasures of P&D 2000-2001 Dec-Feb, BM Great Court, Human Image 2004-2005 Oct-Jan, London, National Gallery, Raphael: From Urbino to Rome 2008/9 Oct-Jan, Co. Durham, Bowes Museum, Faith and Love... 2012 May-Aug, Dresden, Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, 'Raphael'
    2015-2016 4 Dec-27 Mar, Korea, Seoul Arts Centre, Human Image

  • Subjects

  • Associated names

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Acquisition notes

    See Colvin's very long report to the Trustees of 7 July 1894 in which he discusses the status of the cartoon.

  • Department

    Prints & Drawings

  • Registration number


COMPASS Title: Raphael, The Virgin and Child, a drawing


COMPASS Title: Raphael, The Virgin and Child, a drawing

Image description



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Object reference number: PDO162

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