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The canvas was commissioned by the aristocratic Cavaletti family as an altar image for the family church chapel in Sant'Agostino in Rome. The painting was painted in two stages with a break due to a conflict with a notary public who objected to the beloved of the master posing for the image of Mary. After a while, the artist returned to his monumental work and completed it.
Virgin Mary on this canvas seems to soar in the sky in the middle of the altar. The painter dared to show her in the guise of an ordinary peasant woman at the moment of a touching, humble and helpful meeting with two barefoot pilgrims soiled during the long journey. Not in vain the second name of the picture is “Our Lady of the Pilgrims”. The face of the Madonna is full of boundless chastity and artlessness. The baby Jesus in her arms looks at the pilgrims with inquisitiveness and anxiety.
The master paid much attention to details, focusing on the large size of the baby and the image of the weightless feet of Mary. However, for a divine character, her pose is very flirty and immodest. She is dressed in a gloomy robe - a dark blue tunic of silk, and on top in an olive-brown velvet sweater that hides her hands, but opens her neck and part of her chest too boldly for the biblical script.
On the canvas, the images of pilgrims are purely amazing. The foreground of the painting depicts expressive figures of pilgrims equipped with long staves. They look like ordinary peasants, judging by their robes. They meet the Divine Infant with their mother knee-deep, with their hands respectfully folded in prayer. The woman’s dirty headdress and the soiled feet of a young commoner who has walked the hard way barefoot, brought to the forefront, are striking. Legs almost reach the edges of the canvas.
Caravaggio first expressed on the canvas the thought of the injustice of the existence on earth of an order that is not able to change even divine powers. "Madonna Loreto" did not interest connoisseurs who considered her expressionless, but she was admired by the common people, who offered their prayers to her. The true essence of the canvas lies in the author’s idea that pilgrimage is a metaphor for worldly life, as well as the immutable meaning of spirituality.
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