My friend at sent me this photo of the Veiled Woman in Las Vegas, while another friend said she should be the Madonna in the Elvis Wedding Chapel.

What a combination, but hardly more ironic than using Raphael’s Madonna of the Chair, right, in one of the interior settings of the Desperate Housewives‘ TV show, although the neighbors on Wisteria Lane hardly embody the ideals of Raphael’s beautiful women.
As I’m thinking of it more and more, it seems that The Veiled Woman may represent Raphael’s ideal for a perfect womanhood more than a real person, the same ideal behind his images of Mary at this time.  She looks like she could be the mother to Raphael’s bambini Jesus of this time, also portrayed as the perfect chubby baby.   For example, the Madonna of the Chair, left,  has a similar face, but is almost in profile.
The Sistine Madonna, right, has the same face in a frontal view. Either the same model is seen in these three paintings or the artist used the same “ideal” features to  represents a concept of female beauty. During the Renaissance, it was thought that a virtuous woman of beauty could tame a man and make him a better person.

If Raphael painted his portrait of Baldassare Castiglione, author of The Book of the Courtier, as the ideal gentleman, the veiled woman is his match. Although his features are more specific than hers, they are in similar poses with large abundant sleeves and both wear a headdress. If he is unified in blacks and grays, she is unified in variations of white and beige, also in a brown background. Donna Velata is warm and approachable while Castiglione is self-contained. To me, he is dark and brooding, even sad; she is a more optimistic and outward-looking image.

In the end, are the portraits of the Donna Velata and Baldassare Castiglione two parts of the same coin, a reconciliation of masculine and feminine as well as other opposites of human nature? Is she the hopeful and calming influence needed by this gentleman in the same way this loving, brown-eyed woman can tame desperate housewives, casinos and neon-studded venues in the American west?

Copyright Julie Schauer 2010-2016