You will have to wait a bit to admire it up close: the Louvre has just restored La Belle Jardinière, one of the eleven paintings by Raphael that he keeps. Entering the French royal collections at least since Louis XIV, this painting on wood offers a pyramidal composition typical of the Madonnas of Raphael. The Virgin sits there in the middle of a landscape with the Child Jesus and the young Saint John the Baptist. The dating of the work, which varies between 1505 and 1508, corresponds to the Florentine stay of the artist. The softness, the dynamic balance of the figures testify besides to the influence of Leonardo and particularly to his painting The Virgin, the Child Jesus and Saint Anne, also today at the Louvre.
A rare Maronite icon restored at the Petit Palais
The modeling and the contrasts found
In good condition, La Belle Jardinière however, required a reduction in the many layers of varnish, oxidized over time. The operation, which lasted six months with the restoration of the frame, made it possible to rediscover the subtle shape of the flesh, the beautiful blue and red contrast of the Marian garment and the distant bluish of the Flemish-inspired landscape. On the grass, which has turned brown due to the oxidation of copper pigments, violets in tribute to the humility of Mary and columbines, symbol of the Passion of Christ, have earned this painting its nickname of Beautiful Planter, awarded in the 1720s by the amateur Jean-Pierre Mariette.
The great retrospective in Rome closed three days after its opening
The Louvre also lent three drawings and two of his most beautiful paintings by Raphaël, The Portrait of Baldassare Castiglione (1514-1515) and theSelf-portrait with a friend (1520), at the major exhibition of the Quirinal Stables in Rome devoted to the artist. Italy had obtained prestigious loans from museums in Washington, London and Madrid for this event, which was initially scheduled to last until June 2. Unfortunately, the exhibit had to close in early March, just three days after it opened, due to the Covid-19 epidemic. Too early for its organizers to have had the time to film a visit available online.