I am quite a fan of “dear old Mr Santi”, as the art historian Kenneth Clark described him, so I was keen to go and see this picture on display in Senigallia as part of the exhibition “La Grazie e la Luce” (Grace and Light). It is thought to have been painted to celebrate the birth, on March 25 (the Feast of the Annunciation) 1490, of a long-awaited male heir, Francesco Maria, to Giovanni della Rovere and Giovanna Feltria, sister of Guidubaldo and daughter of Federigo Montefeltro, Dukes of Urbino. Young Francesco Maria was to be adopted at the age of 14 as his childless uncle Guidubaldo’s heir as well.
To my mind – or eye – the picture has all Giovanni’s charm and sweetness, which Raphael was to develop into something stronger and deeper.
The exhibition is on until November 2, so do go and see it if you can. Check the opening times! After that, Santi’s Annunciation will presumably return to its usual home in Raphael’s birthplace in Urbino, so you will still have an opportunity to see it.