Visitazione (c.1517)

Raffaello (1483-1520) & assistants

Visitazione (Visitation)
Oil on panel transferred to canvas, 200 x 145 cm
Museo del PradoMadrid

The Virgin Mary visits her cousin, Elisabeth, who is pregnant with Saint John, as told in the New Testament (Luke 1, 39-45). That is the moment when the Virgin sings the Magnificat. The two figures can be told apart by their age. Mary is depicted as a young woman while Elizabeth, on the left, is almost an old woman, which emphasizes the miracle of her pregnancy, as the Bible texts have it. The scene takes place in a landscape and in the background we can see an event which would take place years later: Jesus being baptized by Saint John in the Jordan River. This work was drawn by Raphael, who was paid 300 escudos. He then had the painting done by one of his assistants, though it is not clear which one. Among those named are Giulio Romano and Giovan Francesco Penni. This painting was commissioned by Giovanni Branconio, the Apostolic Protonotary, at the behest of his father, Marino Branconio, for the family chapel at the church of San Silvestre de Aquila. Marino’s choice of subject matter was undoubtedly guided by the fact that his wife was named Elizabeth and his son, John. In 1655, this work was acquired by Felipe IV (1605-1665), who deposited it at El Escorial. It entered the Prado Museum in 1837. (MNP)