Nick muses on both the likely and unlikely aspects of his friendship with Moreland. A list of their shared childhood prejudices makes it seem as if they had known each other long before they had met, and includes a “capricious distaste for Raphael’s La Madonna della Sedia in framed oval reproduction.” [TKO 85/82]
The capriciousness of Nick’s and Moreland’s early distaste for La Madonna della Sedia is perhaps a hint of their shared intellectual snobbery, for it is surely one of Raphael’s most widely reproduced paintings and images of it no doubt furnished many a Victorian parlor and school room in their youth. Its very popularity would make it a likely target for the contempt of adolescent aesthetes everywhere, though it is undoubtedly one of the loveliest paintings of the late Renaissance.
Though Raphael Sanzio (1483-1520) painted La Madonna della Sedia in 1514 in Rome, it has been hanging for centuries in the Palatine Gallery of the Pitti Palace in Florence. (It’s also widely known as La Madonna della Seggiola. Both sedia and seggiola refer to the carved chair in which Mary sits.) The painting is judged to exhibit a late nod by Raphael to the Venetian schools of Titian and Sebastiano del Piombo, reputedly evidenced by the painting’s warm coloration and the softened geometry of the tondo format.
Speaking of which, the painting’s round format is so famous and conspicuous a feature of its appeal that is is curious to read Nick’s recollection of its “framed oval reproduction.” Either this is a rare occasion of a slip of memory by Powell, or else the Victorian decorative penchant for gilding the lily caused Victorian framers to try to augment the Madonna’s elegant simplicity with a more complex treatment.