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Madonna di Loreto

February 21, 2011









The Madonna of Loreto

Caravaggio 1603-1604.

104 1/2 x 60″

Oil on canvas.

Cavalletti Chapel, Church of Sant’Agostino, Rome.

This is a devotional piece for the family chapel of the Cavalletti, commissioned by Ermete Cavalletti in 1603.  It is also known as The Madonna of the Pilgrims.

Caravaggio’s extremely naturalistic approach serves an important purpose here.  He represents the Madonna and Child as very human, not to mention the pilgrims as well.  This type of painting speaks directly to ordinary worshippers, bringing the Blessed onto a more human level.  It is a meshing of two realms.  The Madonna stands in a classical doorway that represents the Gate of Heaven or more closely related to the church’s shrine, the entrance to the Holy House.  The peasants are illuminated with light from this House.

Although each figure convincingly occupies its respective space, the Madonna appears to be levitating, standing prominently on mere tip-toes.  The Loreto chapel is a shrine to the Holy House in which Christ was supposedly born.  Its transport of the house from Palestine to Loreto includes the iconography of a floating Virgin.  A statue within this shrine also depicts the Virgin as looking down (perhaps because she is floating above?) in this fashion.  Caravaggio used these iconographies in his painting as if bringing the statue to life and the miracle to believability (Moir 98).  It is a message to pilgrims to have a little faith.

Moir, Alfred. Caravaggio. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc. 1982.

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