Raphael’s Mirrorless Madonnas

If you think that this is a portrait of Roman Abramovich in his youth, you are wrong. Yet a few, I guess, will be able to immediately tell who is actually depicted here, abd ny whom.

In fact, this is the Christ Child, and painted by Raphael (although, damn, he made so  much money that I won’t be surprised to learn that the distinctive forelock was added later, with a few finishing touches).

Even smaller number of people, I’m afraid, will be able to tell how Rafael got in my mirror series – as we all know, there are no mirror in the paintings of Raphael; not one I could show (although as a word of wise advise I can always quote  i_shmael – “Search better!”). Below, therefore, are the unfound mirrors by Raphael.

First is the Madonna with Abramovich in full:

This is an early work by Raphael, painted in 1507 (the master was born in 1483); he was only 24 years old. And no, there are no mirrors in it. Nor there are mirrors in any of his numerous Madonnas, not one.

He mostly painted religious works, which means that the chances to find mirrors in his works, even if yet unknown, are slim; mirrors appear in such works very rarely.

He did  paint some portraits, too, including of religious leaders. In one of them we can find something that bears some similarity with a mirror. Here is the detail of his portrait of the Pope Leo X:

The metal knob works here almost as a convex mirror, we see the reflection of a  window in to; I wonder if we can spot an artist himself there, which would make it a  self-portrait then).

There is another interesting object in the portrait, a magnifying glass:

painted quite accurately. This is also not a mirror, but both examples show that Raphael was very familiar with glass objects, and the games of lights they create.

Here is an entire work (it was completed in 1518, when Raphael has already moved to Rome).

Raphael was also familiar with the ways of showing the reflections in water – that is, for example, his painting of 1515, depicting one of the miracles of Christ (the catch of fish), that shows his ability to construct complex reflections:

Here is a close-up:

But in any case, no mirrors, well, no.

There used be one (very familiar to the folks in the former Soviet Union). One of the paintings in the Pushkin Museum in Moscow had been attributed to Raphael for some time:

There is a mirror here, and very interesting one, it would make sense to talk about in in different posting then, since the work was eventually attributed to Giulio Romano, one of the most famous pupils of Raphael.

Although in some other sense the work has some relationship to Raphael, too. According to some hypotheses, it depicts his famous mistress known as La Fornarina (the baker’s wife).

There is another portrait of the woman, painted by Raphael himself:

Or, more accurately, it’s presumably Fornarina, by presumably Raphael. The X-ray analysis shows that prior to the woman it was a landscape, with myrtle (the symbol of Venus and love… but that’s off topic).

With some stretch you can see convex mirror in the bottoms apples of the Three Graces:

One can also bet if the pendant of the Lady with the Unicorn does reflect something (this very unicorn, perhaps? which would be a nice allusion to the famous tapestry):

Oh, well; as advised, I will keep searching.

PS: A lot of works of the late Raphael can be seen here. I found an interesting tapestry there, a mirror reflection of the above La pêche miraculeuse:


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