Raphael was known for sketching his works before actually painting them. For the Alba Madonna he had as many as forty-eight sketches. Late in the fourteenth century paper was used more so that artists could explore ideas they had for design that they would later paint or sculpt. This exploratory drawing gave a quick look that was both vivid and intimate of the artist’s creativity to put their thoughts on paper. Artists such as Raphael would generally use pen and ink to draw quick sketches. This allowed the artists to put together basic ideas and not focus on the details of the work. Also in this creative process the artist was known to use live models and the models were generally male even if the figure the artist was drawing was to be female. Perhaps one medium Raphael used was silverpoint on prepared pink paper that allowed the artist to portray a delicate tonal effect. The artist may have also used red chalk as a medium which was used to mimic the soft tones of flesh. Raphael then put the results of looking at the figures of the live models into a summary design of the composition and this helped him put together the lighting effects and setting for the figural arrangements.
Two examples of this are Raphael’s work of Madonna and Child with the Infant Saint John the Baptist is a study of the figures pyramidal grouping. Another step Raphael may have used is drawing cartoons, which were full-scale drawings. These drawings were necessary if the artist chose to paint frescoes which were done on moist plaster. Fresco is a difficult medium that forces the artist to quickly paint a small piece of plaster each day as the moist plaster and water-based colors dry quickly. When commissioning paintings or sculptures is was common practice for the artists to include a drawing or drawings to help explain the design and its details that was expected and were agreed upon by both parties. Drawings were also used as demonstration pieces for approval from patrons and for use in workshops, and these were basically complete in respect to the iconography. These types of drawings were used for sculpting projects and illustrated the framework of the monument (“Renaissance Drawings: Material And Function”, 2013).
When painting the Alba Madonna Raphael used oil on wood which he then transferred to canvas. The artist used oil paints for his paintings and sometimes wet plaster (for frescoes) along with the oil paint. As mentioned above, when doing frescoes the artist had to work small areas of the painting and work quickly before the plaster and paint dried quickly. I think the artist drew before painting because he wanted to make sure the elements of the painting were correct. Also, perhaps if it was a commissioned piece or art work then he could show his ideas to the prospective client and give them idea of what he had in mind to do. In Raphael’s painting of Alba Madonna I think he is expressing divinity through the ideal beauty of the figures of Mary, Jesus and John. Perhaps through the movement that he shows through the way the Christ child seems to be accepting the cross and the way Mary is looking into the future that he is showing the things to come.
I think her arm on John’s shoulder is a type of acceptance of what is to come and understanding that John will make the way for Christ. I do consider drawing to be an important art form. As mentioned in some of the articles I read about Raphael and his drawings, his drawings were sometimes more detailed than the actual paintings he would take from the drawings. I think drawing allows an artist to explore their ideas without committing to them, because once they begin with the paint there is really no going back. Raphael always seemed to be pushing himself to do better. He learned from some of the great artists and perhaps the one that shows most in his works is Leonardo De Vinci. The two artists share similar techniques and Raphael’s Madonna paintings are similar but leave out certain characters or certain details. He draws from his fellow artists to make his work stand out.
Renaissance Drawings: Material and Function. (2013). Retrieved from http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/drwg/hd_drwg.htm