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The Madonna Interceding for Souls in Purgatory

Photo by Peter Paul Geoffrion

The Madonna Interceding for Souls in Purgatory

Artist: Francesco Fontebasso (Italian, 1707–1769)
Culture: Italian, Venetian
Date: c. 1762–1769
Medium: Oil on canvas
Dimensions:
Frame: 41 x 22 1/4 inches (104.1 x 56.5 cm)
Classification: Painting
Credit Line: Museum purchase
Label Text:Images portraying the intervention of the Virgin Mary on behalf of souls trapped in purgatory were common in Italian painting in the 1600s and 1700s. In this work, the Virgin hovers on the right between the dark fires of hell and the cool bright light of heaven. She gestures with open arms toward suffering souls surrounded by the flames of hell. Jesus, seated and holding a cross, looks attentively toward her, as do the other members of the Holy Trinity; God the Father, signified by his triangular halo, and the Holy Spirit in the customary form of a dove. The angels aid Mary in her mission by lifting sinners from the flames, creating a swirling effect that leads the viewer’s eye up and around the dramatic vertical composition. The small size and high level of finish of this example indicate that it was likely intended for private devotion within a wealthy household.

Francesco Fontebasso was born in Venice, Italy and studied for a time with the painter Giambattista Tiepolo (1696 – 1770), from whom he learned the soft, light touch and luminous colors seen here.
Provenance: (Galerie Sanct Lucas, Vienna) by 1937. Private collection by 1958. Purchased March 21, 2001 through (Neumeister Kunstauktionen, lot 682) by private collector, Stuttgart. Purchased 2001 through (Sotheby's) by Duke University Museum of Art, now Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University.
Object number: 2001.17.1