Sistine Madonna Detail


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If the stories are correct, the painting achieved its prominence immediately, as it is said that Augustus moved his throne in order to better display it. The Sistine Madonna was notably celebrated by Johann Joachim Winckelmann in his popular and influential Geschichte der Kunst des Alterthums (1764), positioning the painting firmly in the public view and in the center of a debate about the relative prominence of its Classical and Christian elements. Alternately portraying Raphael as a "devout Christian" and a "'divine' Pagan" (with his distinctly un-Protestant Mary who could have as easily been Juno), the Germans implicitly tied the image into a legend of their own, "Raphael's Dream. " Arising in the last decades of the 18th century, the legend—which made its way into a number of stories and even a play—presents Raphael as receiving a heavenly vision that enabled him to present his divine Madonna. It is claimed the painting has stirred many viewers, and that at the sight of the canvas some were transfixed to a state of religious ecstasy akin to Stendhal Syndrome (including one of Freud's patients). This nearly miraculous power of the painting made it an icon of 19th-century German Romanticism. The picture influenced Goethe, Wagner and Nietzsche According to Dostoyevsky, the painting was "the greatest revelation of the human spirit". Legend has it that during the abortive Dresden uprising of May 1849 Mikhail Bakunin "(unsuccessfully) counseled the revolutionary government to remove Raphael's Sistine Madonna from The Gemäldegalerie, and to hang it on the barricades at the entrance to the city, on the grounds that the Prussians were too cultured 'to dare to fire on a Raphael. '" The story was invoked by the Situationist International as "a demonstration of how the art of the past might be utilized in the present. " In 1855, the "Neues Königliches Museum" (New Royal Museum) opened in a building designed by Gottfried Semper, and the Sistine Madonna was given a room of its own.