On its return trip to the Vatican Museums, the extraordinary masterpiece The Madonna of Foligno by Raffaello, will be displayed in the place where it was originally exhibited for two centuries before being requisitioned in 1797 by the French, who brought the masterpiece to Paris.

San Donato Milanese (Milan), 14 January 2014 – 240.000 is the record-breaking number of visitors achieved by the traditional exhibition organised by Eni at Palazzo Marino, in collaboration with the Vatican Museums and the City of Milan. The success of The Madonna of Foligno (displayed from 28 November to 12 January) confirms the validity of Eni’s formula, appreciated, over the past six years, by over 1.2 million visitors who, before Raffaello’s work, had the opportunity of admiring masterpieces such as:  Caravaggio’s The Conversion of Saint Paul (2008, over 160,000 visitors), Leonardo da Vinci’s Saint John the Baptist (2009, 180,000 visitors), Titian’s Woman with a Mirror (2010, over 190,000 visitors), Georges de La Tour’s Adoration of the Shepherds and Saint Joseph the Carpenter (2011, 210,000 visitors), and Canova’s Cupid and Psyche with Gérard’s Psyche and Amor (2012, 227,000 visitors).

Before returning to the Art Gallery of the Vatican Museums, Raffaello's outstanding canvas will make a stop at Foligno. From 18 to 26 January 2014, with the support of the Vatican Museums and of the City and Diocese of Foligno, Eni will take The Madonna of Foligno to the Monastery of St. Anne, which housed the work for 217 years before being taken away  by the French in 1797 and placed in Paris.

The Madonna of Foligno was transferred in 1565 from the Church of Santa Maria in Ara Coeli in Rome, for which the painting had been realized in 1511-12; in the same monastery also lived sister Anne,  granddaughter of Sigismondo de’ Conti, who had commissioned the work.  After the requisition and the subsequent French’s restitution of the opera, a series of ordeals broughtThe Madonna of Foligno back to Rome, the city in which it was commissioned. With the help of Eni and of the Vatican Museums, the city of Foligno has fulfilled its long standing desire to have back Raffaello’s masterpiece whose history is so much bonded to its territory.

 

Analysis
Valeria Merlini e Daniela Storti, Curators of the exhibition.
The Church of the Monastery of Saint Anne housed for more than two centuries the opera “The Madonna of Foligno‘ . The opera gives its popularity to the greatness of its author, Raffaello after its transfer in 1565 from the Church Saint Mary Aracoeli in Rome, where the canvas was realized in 1511-12 under commission of Sigismondo de’Conti at the monastery of Sain Anna. In the same Monastery lived also the granddaughter of Sigismondo’s nun Anne, for more than sixty years. The real reasons behind the transfer of the canvas from the Church Saint Mary Aracoeli to the Monastery of Saint Anne in Foligno have never been disclosed. 

The iconography of the painting is inspired by a story told in Golden Legend: on Christmas Day, the Virgin Mother and Child would appear to Augustus, in front of the solar disk, surrounded by angels, and the emperor, refusing to worship himself as a god, would have recognized the greatness of the Child and consecrated the place of the vision to Our Lady. The Mother and her Son are represented in the upper part of the altar; below, on earth, St.John the Baptist, St. Francis, the developer and St. Jerome, considered the first papal secretary, participate in the vision. The harmony of lines and colors that presides over the scene thus becomes an expression of celestial harmony, giving form to the invisible. In the foreground, a boy presents to the observer a tabula ansata which lacks an inscription; the meaning of this has long interested scholars.

The background shows two celestial bodies that illuminate a town: a poorly defined rainbow of colors and a fiery body that falls on a house. The latter has been variously interpreted, sometimes as a bombing, a comet or a meteorite, but is attributable, in all likelihood, to Sigismondo’s escape from death, the genesis of this work. The painting we see today underwent a delicate transport operation of the color from panel to canvas during its stay in Paris in the Napoleonic era. This operation, now considered highly invasive, has however helped to preserve this masterpiece through time, and has been handed down to us intact with its original colors. Even today the masterpiece from the Master from Urbino continues to enjoy a surprising popularity. Since the sixteenth century it has brought travelers, pilgrims and visitors to see it eager to contemplate its sublime beauty.

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