Caravaggio's stunning painting of the Death of the Virgin (c. 1601-1606), now in the Musée du Louvre, was originally commissioned by Laerzio Cherubini, a papal lawyer, for his chapel in the Carmelite church of Santa Maria della Scala in Trastevere.
However, the painting caused quite a stir when it was first unveiled. It seems that the realistic depiction of the Virgin's body was at the root of the problem. Put simply, she looked too dead! Rumours also abounded that Caravaggio (1571-1610) had used a prostitute as a model for Mary. The painting was rejected.
Upon the recommendation of the great Flemish painter Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640), who praised it as one of Caravaggio's best works, the painting was snapped up by Vincenzo Gonzaga, Duke of Mantua. It now hangs in the Louvre.
Caravaggio's painting was eventually replaced by another of the same theme by Carlo Saraceni (1579-1620).
Santa Maria della Scala was built between 1593 and 1610 to honour a miracle-working image of the Madonna.
Blogging about Rome:
its art, history and culture.
My name is David Lown and I am an art historian from Cambridge, England. Since 2001 I have lived in Italy, where I run private and
small-group walking tours
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