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The Madonna Of Foligno

Rafael Sanzio, 1512.

The painting was commissioned by Sigismondo de Conti, secretary of Pope Julius II, to commemorate a miracle in which the house of the donor, in Foligno, was hit by lightning or, according to another version, by a projectile during the Foligno site, although it was not damaged.

It is an oil painting on board that was transferred to canvas. It constitutes a milestone of western painting for its skillful composition and the differentiation between the celestial and earthly planes.

The Virgin and the Child Jesus, supported by a cloud of angels and framed by an orange disc, dominate the group of saints below them, among whom is the kneeling donor. This celestial zone appears separated from the one that appears below by a greater chromatic modulation and luminosity.

The stormy atmosphere of the landscape in the background and the flash of lightning (or explosion) striking the Chigi Palace (visible to the left) illustrates the legend to which it was meant to allude. The strong characterization of the figures and the refined chiaroscuro distinguishes this table as a work of the artist in his maturity.

Vatican Museums