Storia dell’arte n. 155-156 – Nuova Serie 1/2 | 2021
The Madonna of the Veil and other Copies after Raphael in Seicento Roman Dwellings: Visibility, Faith and Vasari’s Lives
In early Seicento Rome acquiring works by Raphael was almost impossible; thus, many collectors had to be satisfied with copies after his paintings. The study of over two hundred inventories of palaces, more modest dwellings and shops, has revealed that only a few of his works were copied repeatedly, in particular the Saint Cecilia, the Madonna of Divine Love and the Madonna of the Veil. These clear preferences were dictated by various reasons. Collectors preferred paintings executed in Rome and that enjoyed at least a limited visibility in the city—only a copy of the Santa Cecilia was known there. Vasari’s predilections also seem to have influenced collectors’ preferences; paintings he considered only partially autograph were not particularly appreciated by collectors. Devotion towards certain images also played a significant role, and in particular, the Madonna of the Veil was endlessly copied mostly for its apotropaic function. The panel, conceived for Santa Maria del Popolo, as it derives its iconography from the relics of the veil of the Virgin in the main altar, had, in fact, become part of a ritual celebrating Mary’s victory over pagan demons.