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Madonna of the Rosary

Caravaggio1605/1607

Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien

Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien

So far, no one has succeeded in reconstructing the exact history of how this altar painting came about, either because essential documents were missing or existing documents provided contradictory information. Thus the donor seeking protection at St. Dominic’s elbow at the left edge of the painting remains unidentified. According to the latest research, the picture was painted in Naples rather than in Rome and thus in the period between 1601 and 1605. Its existence is first documented in 1607, when it was already being put up for sale in Naples. The owners, two Dutch art dealers, returned to Amsterdam with the painting sometime before 1617. There it was acquired in 1618/19 by an Antwerp consortium, to which Rubens and Jan Brueghel the EIder belonged, before it finally found a new home in Antwerp’s Dominican Church. In 1781 the Madonna of the Rosary was acquired for the imperial collection of paintings at the instigation of Emperor Joseph II. Pope Gregory XIII instituted the Feast of the Holy Rosary in 1573, following the victory of the allied Christian forces over the Turkish fleet at Lepanto (1571), and entrusted the Dominican order with its observance. St. Peter Martyr, who can be recognised by his wounded head, turns as holy mediator towards the viewer. He indicates to the faithful the presence of the enthroned Madonna with the child Jesus. She, on the other hand, turns to the side, ordering St. Dominic, who is looking up in obedience, to distribute rosaries to the people who are pressing towards him on their knees. But ultimately even Mary plays only the role of a mediator – the boy Jesus is the focus of attention with regards to both content and composition. As in most of his works, Caravaggio achieves the strong physical presence of the figures in a realistic, never idealising manner through the use of intense contrasts of light and dark. He subtly makes the objects of their desire, the rosaries, more abstract by putting them in the shadows, making the brightly illuminated hands all the more dominant. © Cäcilia Bischoff, Masterpieces of the Picture Gallery. A Brief Guide to the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna 2010

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Additional Items

Madonna of the Rosary (Supplemental)

Madonna of the Rosary (Supplemental)

Madonna of the Rosary (Supplemental)

Madonna of the Rosary (Supplemental)

Madonna of the Rosary (Supplemental)

Madonna of the Rosary (Supplemental)

Madonna of the Rosary (Supplemental)

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