Madonna the Goldfinch

Henry Kutilek Grinvalds Humanities (A8) 10/31/12 Emotions From the Finch 100 years ago the first car was made. This created an entirely new form of transportation that was innovative to that generation. Similarly, the 100 year difference between the end of the Medieval Era and beginning of the Renaissance Era showed amazing changes in the form of art. The painting “Madonna the Goldfinch” by Raphael Sanzio was created in c. 1505-1506. This was the very beginning of the Renaissance Era, and the painting strived for perfection unlike any of the paintings created before it.
Madonna the Goldfinch portrays a sense intrigued curiosity, but to those who analyze it will find a guiding informative response with a deep understanding of symbolic foreshadowing. This essay will discuss the visual, expressive, and associative responses experience from Raphael’s painting, The Madonna the Goldfinch. The responded will be ordered by when chronologically experienced. The primary response I feel is visual. The first thing that catches my eye is the pale face of the woman (Mary) and her blue and red clothes. Her face is close to white, its large, and located at the top of the painting.
She is looking down, and the expression on her face looks close to surprised, with a faint smirk on her lips. This makes me think she is curious, yet knowing of the situation at hand. Next I look at the two children on the left and right (John the Baptist, Jesus) below Mary. I immediately notice the clothed John and naked Jesus, and then the bird that John is holding. He is offering it to Jesus, and Jesus strokes the top of its head with assurance. He is also being held tightly between Mary’s knees, and she has an arm around John, which makes me feel like she is encouraging him.

These three bodies make a near perfect triangle, which balances the painting to a tee. Also, the colors on their bodies contrast the green landscape in the background. I noticed this, and then saw that there is a city very far in the distance across a river (Florence, Italy). If I had been another foot away from the painting I wouldn’t have noticed this, and without the zoom in feature on the google art galleries I would not have known it was a city. Either side of the bodies show two different landscapes, and they are both of equal size.
On the left side shows trees in the distance, along with a bridge. The most impressive showings of detail are found in the bird, John’s hair, and the city in the background. This had to be truly amazing for the people in this time period. Not only is this painting artistically impressive, it is expressively impressive. The first feeling I get when looking at this painting is security. Mary is holding Jesus tightly between her knees, and holding an arm around John. Along with this, John is gently holding on to a bird that he is offering to Jesus.
Mary’s face looks similar to a teacher watching a student try something new they just learned, and her holding the book adds to this. All of this makes me feel guidance, and gives me a motherly feeling of love that can push me along with whatever troubles I have in my life. The aspect of motherly love is exactly how I relate to this picture. I associate this painting with a favorite picture in my house of my mother watching my two oldest brothers play when they were just a few years old. It struck me early on in the viewing of the picture how similar it is to my young family.
My mom is watching over them while they are sitting down in the yard, and my oldest brother is offering my other brother a toy to play with. The similarities between Mary’s face and my moms is shocking. These similarities make me think about what is actually happening in the painting, and the story that is being told. This is called the intellectual response. One main theme I see is actually a Renaissance Concept, that that is Emulation of the Classics. Art made in Europe in the Medieval Era was all mainly funded by the church, and in turn it was made to glorify god.
It is obvious this painting is doing something similar, but just with a perfected brush stroke that had depth and balance. Also, the idea of Humanism comes into play. Mary is holding a book that she seems to have just been reading, and in the Renaissance Era people were just beginning to not be afraid to learn. Maybe Raphael was trying to portray that reading is an okay and safe thing to do by having someone as idealistic as Mary reading. I noticed how both Mary and John have halos above their head, but Jesus does not.
I was very confused by this at first, and it made my question whether the bird had something to do with it. Upon researching I learned that this bird is a Goldfinch, a bird that eats primarily off of throned plants. The legend is that when Jesus was carrying his cross to become crucified he had a thorn painfully poking at his head, and a Goldfinch flew over to him and removed it from his head. The Goldfinch is often used as a symbol of resurrection, so there is no doubt in my mind that the bird is used as a symbol of John foretelling Jesus about his future. Madonna the Goldfinch” is a truly amazing piece of artwork, with incredible attention to detail. It made me think about how good Raphael is as an artist, but also what he meant to portray. In my eyes, it shows the guidance of a mother and the wonder of two children. It really made me interpret the painting in ways I never have before, like considering facial expressions and what they mean. If I had to rename this painting it would be “Wisdom of the Goldfinch”. This is because the bird is the focus of the painting and it is causing the emotions of all of the people in the painting, through which wisdom is being passed.

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