Raphael: “Flaget Madonna”

Raffaello Sanzio, commonly known as Raphael, was a prominent European High Renaissance painter in the early 16th century. He was renowned for his exceptional devotional paintings depicting the Holy Family. During his short life as an artist, the pope, court, and wealthy patrons commissioned religious compositions and smaller works such as portraits.

With regard to his technique, it appears that all of his early paintings were executed using oil or egg tempera. Subsequently, he solely used oil paints as at that period in Italy, the usage of oil paints was increasingly prevalent. Raphael’s paint often contained orpiment which was also used by Leonardo and Michelangelo. Once Raphael had established himself as a painter in Rome and began working on larger frescoes, he employed assistants and pupils who became part of his workshop.

A client has requested Art Recognition to authenticate a painting which was discovered in 1995 in the English countryside. The painting in question portrays Mary cradling infant Jesus whilst Elizabeth and young John the Baptist gaze on with affection. In the background is an oak tree with a goldfinch, a symbol of the Crucifixion in ancient times. In terms of provenance, the client knew it belonged, since 1836, to the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, a convent in Kentucky. The client explained that Bishop Joseph Benedict Flaget, one of the founders of the Order, was the donor of the painting to the convent. That is where the painting got its name, the “Flaget Madonna”.

Raphael, Flaget Madonna
Confident that he had discovered a valuable painting, our client spent decades researching and attempting to prove whether it could be possible that the painting was created by Raphael. Showing the “Flaget Madonna” to several art historians resulted in a debate about whether the piece was created by Raphael or not. Knowing that he had an atelier, experts also wonder whether the work could have been painted in whole or in part by one of his assistants.

Art Analysis & Research, the prominent forensic art authentication firm based in London, determined the painting’s approximate date and location as well as the presence of orpiment. Historical analysis and forensics eliminated all other known artists of the period, including Ceraiolo, other than Raphael.

Raphael, Flaget Madonna, Detail
Raphael, Flaget Madonna, Detail
We trained the AI on a high-quality image dataset containing paintings created by Raphael. Our technology captured the artist’s brushstroke, as well as variations in color and high-level composition elements. The analysis revealed that the faces of Mary and Jesus were by Raphael with a probability of 97%, whereas the rest of the painting has been assessed by our AI as ‘not by Raphael’. Therefore, our Artificial Intelligence analysis provides new elements that may encourage scholars to revisit their assessments of the painting.

For more information just write us a message on contact@art-recognition.com and we will be in touch shortly.