22 July 2021

The painting The Beautiful Gardener, also known as Madonna and Child with Saint John the Baptist, by Raphael was delivered from the Louvre Museum (Paris) to the Hermitage Museum (St. Petersburg). From 21 July to 19 September Raphael's masterpiece can be seen in the Apollo Hall of the Winter Palace. The canvas was supposed to be part of the December exposition Raphael's Line, timed to coincide with the 500th anniversary of the artist's death, but due to the pandemic it was brought in only now. Raphael created the Beautiful Gardener at the age of 22. The artist was inspired by the works of Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo, whose works are on display in the Hermitage Museum as well. Many elements of the painting are symbolic. Flowers mean sorrow, suffering and humility of the Virgin Mary. During the restoration, experts discovered Raphael's signature on the hem of the Mother of God's mantle.

"Raphael did not sign all of his paintings, and this is especially important. If you look closely at the edge of Mary's dark blue cape, you will see an ornament drawn with a gold line, - in fact, this is the master's signature," said a researcher at the Department of Western European Fine Arts of the State Hermitage Museum.