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Sposalizio della Vergine

The painting, dated 1504, comes from the church of San Francesco at Città di Castello and arrived in Brera in 1805. Raphael based the Marriage of the Virgin on the model of the altarpiece of the same subject painted by Perugino and now in the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Caen, from which he took the layout of the composition and the iconography, using them to produce a result of extraordinary and unsurpassable perfection. Reflectography has revealed a dense mesh of lines converging on the door of the temple, which define the perspective structure of the image in full observance of the indications provided by Piero della Francesca’s treatise De prospectiva pingendi. Through this device, the temple becomes the optical center of the composition and the position of the figures, arranged in a semicircle, balances the convex form of the architecture, itself represented with such accuracy that scholars have suggested the existence of a wooden model. All the elements are bound together by mathematical relations of proportion and are disposed in a precise and serried hierarchical order, whereas Perugino had simply arranged the parts of the composition in a perspectively correct structure. The realization of this coherent organization fully expressed the ideas of Raphael, who saw beauty as an abstract order of geometrical representation and regarded the task of the artist to be that of “doing things not as nature does but as she ought to do.”