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Biblical Archaeology Review 46:5, Winter 2020

Epistles: Clip Art

Biblical Archaeology Review

You recognize this portion of a famous work of art. What is it called, and who created it?

A. Madonna and Child
by Sandro Botticelli
B. The Sistine Madonna
by Raphael
C. Madonna and Child
by Filippo Lippi
D. Madonna of the Pear
by Albrecht Dürer
E. Madonna of the Magnificat
by Sandro Botticelli

Answer: (B)

The Sistine Madonna, painted by Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino (1483–1520)—also known as Raphael—was commissioned by Pope Julius II for the high altar of the San Sisto monastery church in Piacenza, Italy. Piacenza had just joined the Papal States, and Julius had familial connections to San Sisto, so scholars assume he had Raphael paint this work in celebration of the union. Since Pope Julius II died in 1513, the work likely was completed before then.

One of the most renowned paintings of the Renaissance, it depicts a vision appearing to the two saints worshiped at San Sisto—Pope Sixtus II (left) and St. Barbara (right)—of Mary bringing the Christ child down from the divine realms into the earthly one. The two famous cherubs, which are arguably better known than the painting itself in modern pop culture, were actually added last—most likely for compositional reasons.

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