Madonna and Child (Madonna of the Pinks)


after RaphaelUnknown artist




Oil on canvas


12 5/16 x 9 1/8 in. (31.3 x 23.2 cm)


The small painting of which this is a copy was painted by Raphael for private devotion and was probably meant to be held in the hands of its owner. The Virgin presents a carnation—or “pink”—to her son in a bedchamber. (The bed curtain is looped behind her head.) The pinks were an emblem of marriage; in an age that prized symbolic allusions in minute details, this familiar symbol presented the Virgin Mary not only as the Mother but also as the Bride of Christ. Raphael based his painting on an earlier piece by Leonardo da Vinci (the Benois Madonna; now in the Hermitage, St. Petersburg). In both, the mother and son no longer sit stiffly and formally as in earlier paintings, but now display a palpable intimacy natural between a mother and her young child.

The original by Raphael was “rediscovered” in 1991 in the collection of the Alnwick Castle in Northumberland, England, where it had been considered a copy for over a century. (Copies of the Madonna of the Pinks abound.)  In 2004 the original by Raphael was purchased by the National Gallery in London. The Athenæum’s copy dates possibly from the eighteenth century, when the original by Raphael is thought to have been in France.

Credit Line

Gift of the Estate of Louis Agassiz Shaw, 1991

Object Number