Madonna del Populo

Unknown16th century (final)

Museu de São Roque

Museu de São Roque
Lisboa, Portugal

The painting represents Mary, the Mother of Jesus, on a typical byzantine posture, that is in a grandiose attitude of “Mother of God” [Theotokos, in Greek], a title that was bestowed to her by the Council of Ephesus, in 431. Mary’s right hand crosses gently over the left hand, while embracing the Child Jesus who, in turn blesses the viewer with his right hand to whom his Mother directs her protecting eyes. In this kind of icons of clear byzantine influence, the main figures emerges from a golden background which symbolizes the heavenly realm. Their halos or splendours are not just decorative signs of holiness, instead they point to their real state of sanctity, therefore considered essential elements in this kind of paintings.


  • Title: Madonna del Populo
  • Creator: Unknown
  • Creator Lifespan: Unknown
  • Date: 16th century (final)
  • Physical Dimensions: w86 x h126 cm
  • Provenance: Museu de São Roque/Santa Casa da Misericórdia de Lisboa
  • Type: Painting
  • Rights: Museu de São Roque/Santa Casa da Misericórdia de Lisboa
  • External Link: Museu de São Roque/Santa Casa da Misericórdia de Lisboa
  • Medium: Oil on canvas
  • Manufactured: Italy
  • Devotion: The devotion to the "Madonna del Populo" was widely spread within the context of the Counter-Reformation. This veneration is shown through these paintings copied from the original model kept in the Capella Borghese at St. Mary Maggiore Basilica, in Rome, traditionally attributed to St. Luke, assumed as the true portrait of the Virgin Mary. The devotion to the "Madonna del Populo" increased significantly in the 16th century; this devotion prompted the reproduction of this icon, whose replications were exported and spread throughout Christendom by the Jesuits. An example of this is its presence in nearly all the Jesuit houses and missions around the world. In São Roque, this painting was brought from Rome, in 1569, and offered to Queen Catherine by Saint Francis Borgia, after it was taken to Lisbon by the Jesuit priest Inácio de Azevedo . This model prompted an intense reproduction of copies.

Additional Items

Get the app

Explore museums and play with Art Transfer, Pocket Galleries, Art Selfie, and more

Flash this QR Code to get the app
Google apps