Raphael Sanzio da Urbano is considered one of the preeminent artists of the High Renaissance. Despite dying at the comparatively early age of 37 he left the world a large body of work thanks to his relatively early success and large shop. Raphael became a favorite of the Vatican and many of his most famous works, such as The School of Athens, were commissioned by Pope Julius II or his successor Pope Leo X. One of Raphael’s most recognizable works is the Sistine Madonna, which was not painted for the Sistine Chapel as commonly thought but as an altarpiece for the Monastery of San Sisto.

Although it appears to be partially obscured by curtains in the image above, these curtains are actually part of the painting. In addition to the curtains and the rod from which they appear to hang, the cherubim (little angels) further the illusion by leaning over the bottom board and breaking through the image’s expected boundary. Saint Sixtus also appears to have placed his hat onto the same board.

Popularly described as portraying the characters on a stage, my art history professor described it as a creating the illusion of peering out of the window and seeing the Madonna. Whether a stage or window, the same type of techniques are used in today’s “3D” paintings.