The great attraction of the Capodimonte museum in Naples is the Caravaggio Flagellation. Naples has three great paintings by the bad boy of art, which we had to see: The Flagellation, The Seven Acts of Mercy (in Pio Monte della Misericordia) and The Martyrdom of St Ursula (in the Gallery of Palazzo Zevallos Stigliano, which makes a quiet escape from the hectic Via Toledo where it stands).

But in the Capodimonte, this picture of the Madonna and Child with St. John stood out. The artist is Raffaello dè Carli, also called Raffaellino del Garbo, a Florentine, 1466-1524.


I liked it and took the photo in poor light with my cheap camera, but it may be the best  you can find because, although it’s a lovely painting and although the artist is very good, I can’t find a good colour reproduction. (There’s is a crisp black and white photo here.) It’s mentioned in Berenson’s Italian Pictures of the Renaissance, but I’m surprised it’s not talked about more. The composition (never easy in the round) is successful and I like the lively postures of the figures, especially the heads of the Virgin and Child turned away from one another.

Vasari says of Raffaello that, when he was a little boy, he

“… was called by the pet name of Raffaellino, which he retained ever afterwards; and in his earliest days he gave such promise in his art, that he was already numbered among the most excellent masters, a thing which happens to few. But still fewer meet the fate which afterwards came upon him, in that from a splendid beginning and almost certain hopes, he arrived at a very feeble end.” 

He trained with Filippo Lippi, who thought Raffaellino was a better painter than he was. You may agree. The Madonna and Child with St John was painted about 1500, in his early thirties, obviously at the height of his powers.

So why do we know so much more about Filippo than Raffaellino?  The explanation may be in his final years. Of his end, Vasari writes

“Raffaellino was unfortunate in his connections, for he always mixed with poor and humble people, like a man who had sunk and become ashamed of himself, seeing that in his youth he had given such great promise, and now knew how distant he was from the extraordinary excellence of the works that he had made at that time. And thus, growing old, he fell away so much from his early standard, that his works no longer appeared to be by his hand; and forgetting his art more and more every day, he was reduced to painting, in addition to his usual panels and pictures, the meanest kinds of works. And he sank so low that everything was a torment to him, but above all his burdensome family of children, which turned all his ability in art into mere clumsiness. Wherefore, being overtaken by infirmities and impoverished, he finished his life in misery at the age of fifty-eight, and was buried in S. Simone, at Florence, by the Company of the Misericordia, in the year 1524.”

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