Caravaggio's painting of the Madonna dei Pellegrini (Madonna of the Pilgrims), c.1605, in the church of Sant' Agostino, caused quite a furore when it was first unveiled.
The painting hangs in the Chapel of the House of Loreto and was commissioned by Ermete Cavalletti. It depicts Mary standing at the entrance to a house, holding the Christ Child. Two elderly pilgrims are kneeling in prayer outside the dwelling. The pair's very grubby appearance seems to have offended certain viewers.
Serious objection was also taken to the model used for Mary, who was a prostitute called Maddalena Antognetti. She features in other paintings by Caravaggio. This objection was significant, and it is to Cavaletti's credit that he kept the painting.
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 walking tours of Rome.
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