There were four great artists of the Italian Renaissance; Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello and Raphael, forever immortalised thanks to the work of some acrobatic turtles.

Whilst Leonardo and Michelangelo have become household names and artistic behemoths – maintaining contemporary relevance thanks in part to some dubious Dan Brown novels – Raphael is perhaps the most overlooked of the quartet. A fact that is strange considering he was… whisper it quietly… the most talented painter amongst them.

However, this year is the 500th anniversary of the Italian painter’s death, and is rightfully being marked with a series of blockbuster exhibitions across Europe. In Berlin, the Gemäldegalerie has elected to bring together iconic works in Raphael in Berlin: The Madonnas of the Gemäldegalerie.

Raphael’s death in 1520, aged only 37, goes a long way to explaining the artist’s comparative obscurity in the wake of Leonardo and Michelangelo. Whilst he was unable to produce the same wealth of work as his contemporaries, his output was more versatile, prolific and elegant. He was sought after by the Vatican, collected by Popes, and became the most noted portraitist of his time.

There are no finer examples of Raphael’s prodigious talent than in his paintings of the Virgin Mary. The Gemäldegalerie’s exhibition showcases a number of Madonnas from the institution’s own collection, alongside rare loans and preliminary sketches from the Kupferstichkabinett and the National Gallery, London. And whilst The Madonnas might not be an exhibition big on scale (all the portraits are of modest size and presented in a single room), genial technique and elegance abounds. Raphael’s colours are luminous and bright, and the folds in clothing appear in high-def 4k clarity. If you have ever seen the Mona Lisa and thought, like me, ‘oh, what’s all the fuss about?’, then The Madonnas is the antidote.

Raphael in Berlin: The Madonnas of the Gemäldegalerie runs until 26 April 2020 at The Gemäldegalerie, Berlin.

Artist and writer Matt Antoniak has been widely exhibited nationally and his work is held in private collections. In this column, he explores some of the most important art and culture topics for Discover Germany, Austria & Switzerland.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Discover Germany, Switzerland & Austria.

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