January 24 - September 27, 2015
Above: Raphael, Italian, 1483-1520 The Small Cowper Madonna (detail) about 1505, oil on wood Widener Collection, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1942.9.57
The Small Cowper Madonna by Raphael, one of the greatest Renaissance paintings in America, will come to Worcester from the National Gallery of Art in Washington for a special, focused installation. Painted at the moment when Raphael made the transition from Urbino to Florence, this work stands at the beginning of the highly influential Madonnas which secured his reputation. Raphael's work will be paired with Worcester's Northbrook Madonna, a work that came into the collection in 1940 with an attribution to Raphael that has long been discarded, but without clear consensus on what relationship the work bears to Raphael and his studio. This two-painting installation, which will also address the underdrawing of the two pictures, will explore Raphael's masterful interpretation and the spread of his early style among followers in Central Italy.
Master of the Northbrook Madonna, Italian, active 1500-1525, The Virgin and Child (Northbrook Madonna), early 1500s, oil on wood, Theodore T. and Mary G. Ellis Collection, 1940.39
How did The Small Cowper Madonna get its name?
Raphael would certainly be surprised to learn that his picture has come to be known as the Small Cowper Madonna (not the least because he did not speak English). Passing through the hands of a succession of collectors in the centuries after their creation, paintings often acquired the name of a later owner. In the nineteenth century, this and another Madonna and Child by Raphael now known as "The Large Cowper Madonna" were among the treasures of the art collection of Earl Cowper, a British aristocrat. It has been known ever since as "The Small Cowper Madonna."