The Madonna Di San Sisto -- By: J. Isidor Mombert

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 033:132 (Oct 1876)
Article: The Madonna Di San Sisto
Author: J. Isidor Mombert


The Madonna Di San Sisto

Rev. J. I. Mombert

During a prolonged residence in the charming capital of Saxony, frequent pilgrimages to its magnificent gallery of paintings were of course attended by a constantly growing admiration and enthusiasm for the superb array of works of art which are there collected, and so judiciously arranged that the gallery may without exaggeration be described, “not only as a chief centre for the enjoyment of art, but also of instruction in it to the cultivated of the whole earth.” In that exquisitely beautiful temple of art, filled with the masterpieces of the most famous painters of almost every period and every country, there is probably no painting more universally admired and more frequently visited than the Madonna di San Sisto, by Raphael Sanzio of Urbino.

It has a cabinet of its own, which is almost always crowded with visitors. The cabinet is situated in the northwestern corner of the gallery; a peculiarly soft light falls on the picture, set up in an altar-like structure, and has, on account of the priceless gem it enshrines and the exquisite perfection of its peerless conception, been called by an enthusiastic lover of art” the holy of holies “of the entire gallery. The visitor, the moment he enters, feels a mysterious spell come over him. Fascinated by the eloquent

appeal to his noblest emotions and highest aspirations, which seems to address him individually and to hold him captive, he yields himself unconsciously to the magic and subtile influence that pervades that sanctuary of art; and he, in turn, becomes one of the silent admirers that gaze intently on the Madonna, of which we propose to furnish a brief description, with such matters concerning its history as may enable those who only know the picture from copies, engravings, and photographs, to study it with increased interest.

The picture represents a window; a half-opened green curtain, fastened to a rod and gathered up at the sides, supposed to have just been opened, discloses to the spectators, imagined to stand or kneel before it, — that is, inside the room, — a celestial vision of passing sublimity. In the centre, enthroned on clouds and surrounded by a halo of innumerable angel heads, which from a tint of pale luminous white gradually gathers intenser coloring till it culminates in softest azure, appears the Virgin Mary, holding in her right arm and supporting with her left the infant Saviour. On the Virgin’s right, slightly below her, also on clouds, adores, in kneeling attitude, but with uplifted face, Pope Sixtus II.; his tiara is deposited in the extreme right corner of the embrasure, the central portion of which is occupied by two beautiful cherubs in a l...

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