The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne and the Baptist (The Perla), Raphael. Oil on panel, 147,4 x 116 cm, 1519 - 1520, Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado

Raphael’s repertory in Rome included a few large paintings of the Madonna and Child, but many more variants on the subject of the Holy Family with the addition of Saint Joseph and sometimes also Saint Anne and the young Saint John the Baptist. The distinction between these larger panels and altarpieces is not always clear and some of the Holy Families were probably installed as altarpieces in private chapels; they could also have been displayed in private residences.

There is much uncertainty regarding the dating of these pictures and the extent to which Raphael’s assistants participated in their execution and planning; although some, such as the Perla, are among his greatest masterpieces. Throughout the period Raphael was under extreme pressure and he often delegated aspects of his work to his shop and especially to his two most trusted assistants, Giulio Romano and Gianfrancesco Penni. However he generally kept firm control of his workshop’s production, at least in the pictures which went out under his name, even if the times and ways in which he delegated were not always straight-forward.

 
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