Raphael’s painting of the Madonna and baby Jesus, dated between 1511 and 1513, will be on show free in the Sala Alessi of Milan city hall over the Christmas period.
On loan from the Vatican Museum, the painting was commissioned as an ex voto (thanks for mercies received) by the chamberlain of Pope Julius II, Sigismondo de’ Conti, whose life was spared when a bolt of lightning – or perhaps a meteorite – destroyed his house. The scene of the house being hit, but also being covered by a rainbow representing divine protection, is portrayed in the background.
The free exhibit follows in the Milan tradition, which has seen works by Caravaggio, Leonardo, Titian, De La Tour and Canova loaned for Christmas in recent years. Last year, Canova’s Amore e Psyche was seen by 225,000 visitors.