Madonna of the Rosary Caravaggio Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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No one can pin the exact year this picture was sketched, but it was likely painted between 1601-1605.

However, it was first documented in 1607, when it was put up for sale in Naples. The Dutch owners returned with it to Amsterdam around 1617.

It was later taken over by an Antwerp consortium in 1618/19 to which Brueghel the Elder and Rubens belonged. Madonna of the Rosary then found a new home in 1781 with Emperor Joseph II imperial collection of paintings.

Madonna of the Rosary is a religious painting by Caravaggio measuring 249.5 x 364.5 cm. The painting depicts Madonna holding on to boy child Jesus surrounded by viewers. St Peter the martyr can be seen acting as a mediator, the picture shows his wounded head.

He points towards the presence of a crowned Madonna with the child Jesus. Madonna, on the other hand, turns towards St Dominic who is looking up to the people to dispense the rosaries to the people closing up space towards him on their knees. The Painting shows Mary playing the role of a mediator as the Boy Jesus is the focus of attention from both composition and content.

This picture differs from convention; there are poor bear feet men which are seemingly dirty. Also, there are a handful of hands raised up trying to reach up to a single rosary that St Dominic is holding. A red drape frames the painting as Madonna and the child Jesus looks down the poor but faithful crowd.

A Bleeding St Peter depicts his death caused violently by an axe blow from to his head, while a hooded member of Dominican order stands next to him.

It uses the baroque style of painting which exaggerated motion whose details produced tension and drama. It uses a medium of oil on canvas which is a traditional technique that uses thinned paints of different textures and charcoal.

To thin the paint the artists used linseed oil or other solvents which made the paint to dry faster or slower depending on it application.

Like other Caravaggio paintings, he achieves in portraying the physical presence of the figures more realistically. The intense contrasts of dark and light colours are exceptional. The object of his desire comes out clearly like the rosaries and the hands holding them which he manages to put in the shadows so that they brilliantly illuminates in a dominant manner.

The painting is closely related to The crowning with thorns 1602/1604, which together with ‘Madonna of the Rosary’ which among other 15 Caravaggio collection acquired by Imperial ambassador in Rome in 1810. Sacrifice of Isaac 1603 – 1604 which depicts Abraham in his advanced age willing to sacrifice his only son.

Related works from other artists include ‘The Infant Christ Distributing Bread to the Pilgrims’ 1678 which uses the same medium as ‘Madonna of the Rosary.'