Madonna of the Goldfinch
Be the first to vote…
akhadka's picture


Madonna of the Goldfinch has been through quite a lot, from a landslide that shattered the painting to restoration attempts involving nails.

The painting is a staple by Raphael, an Italian Renaissance painter, and admired for the triangular composition and the natural depiction of the figures. Oddly shaped young christs throughout art history have puzzled us all, so thank baby Jesus for this Raphael or thank Raphael for this baby Jesus. Although the proportions of the figures are on point, the artist didn’t seem to know much about child development. He depicts Madonna attempting a reading lesson, but can tiny baby Jesus talk yet, let alone read at this point? Perhaps that’s why he’s distracted by his brosef, John the Baptist, carrying a goldfinch.

The painting was commissioned by Raphael’s friend, Lorenzo Nasi, for his wedding celebration on February 23, 1506. Nasi placed the painting in his new palace where it lived for 41 years. On November 12, 1547, a landslide hit the palace and shattered the painting into seventeen pieces. A recollection of the event most likely by Lorenzo himself recounts that all seventeen people in the house survived thanks to a fevered friend staying at the palace who was awake to hear the palace crumbling overnight. They almost didn’t make it because Lorenzo dismissed his friend at first figuring it was the fever talking. When the painting was recovered, Battista, Lorenzo’s son attempted to restore the painting by nailing the seventeen pieces back together (cue winces from every art lover, liker, and restorer alike). As noble as his intention was, his conservation technique didn’t exactly meet conservation standards.

Eventually, the painting landed in the Medici collection. Many restoration attempts had been made by the early 2000s giving the painting a brownish tint. Although not quite as bad as Cecilia Giménez’s infamous Ecce Homo restoration attempt, these previous restoration attempts had to be undone by the Patrizia Rittano’s conservation team at Opificio Delle Pietre Dure. Surprisingly, they decided to keep Battista’s nails because removing the nails may have done irrevocable damage to the painting. Thanks to the Rittano’s team, the Uffizi has the painting restored back to Raphael’s standards. We would hope it is because Rittano confesses she spent more time with the painting than her own daughter during the restoration process. When it comes to restoration, let’s leave it to the experts because much time and consideration is taken before even attempting restoration projects. The world doesn’t need another Ecce Homo disaster.




  1. Cannon, Rose, Lara Heard, Claudia Li, and Austin Turman, “From Botched Restoration to Selfie Destruction: 5 of the Worst Art Fails,” The Sartler, August 2, 2017.
  2. “Mary, Christ and the young John the Baptist, known as the ‘Madonna of the Goldfinch’,” Uffizi, accessed: March 27, 2018.
  3. Pullella, Philip, “Technology helps restore Raphael masterpiece,” Reuters, October 27, 2008.
  4. Ross, Janet, Florentine Palaces and Their Stories, (Kessinger Publishing: 2010), 68.
  5. Strinati, Claudio, “Florentine Madonnas,” Raphael, (Giunti Editore: 1998).

Featured Content

Here is what Wikipedia says about Madonna del cardellino

The Madonna del cardellino or Madonna of the Goldfinch is a painting by the Italian Renaissance artist Raphael, from c. 1505–1506. A 10-year restoration process was completed in 2008, after which the painting was returned to its home at the Uffizi in Florence. During the restoration, an antique copy replaced the painting in the gallery.


Raphael is considered to be a “master” of the High Renaissance, a title he shares with Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci. He was born in 1483 and died in 1520, living a mere thirty-seven years. Despite his relatively short lifespan, he was highly influential throughout his time on earth. He produced a vast quantity of work in a variety of media. He was active in architecture, printmaking, painting, and drawing. During the first half of his career, he spent years traveling across Northern Italy and was influenced by the Florentine styles he saw there, causing this stage to be called his Florentine Period. After which, in 1508, he moved to Rome where he continued to work. Many of his commissions came from the Vatican, including the Apostolic Palace, which brought about one of his most famous works, School of Athens. Due to his relationship with the church, he and Michelangelo were fierce rivals throughout both of their careers, and often competed for the same commissions. During his Florentine period, this work, The Madonna Del Cardellino, was painted along with several other well-known Madonnas: The Madonna of the Meadow and La Belle Jardinière. All three share several characteristics: Madonna is clothed in red and blue, the same three subjects are painted, the pyramidal composition, the natural background, and the connection to the church through the representation of books, crosses, or, indeed, the goldfinch.

Check out the full Wikipedia article about Madonna del cardellino.