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Rome Reports

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Esterhazy Madonna, Raphael painting of princes and empresses, returns to Eternal City


For a few months, the Barberini Palace's walls will be adorned with “The Esterhazy Madonna,” a work painted by Raphael in 1508, when the artist was only 25 years old.  

It's one of the key Renaissance paintings and marks Raphael's transition from Florence to Rome, where he was commissioned to decorate the papal residence. 

CINZIA AMMANNATO
Exhbition commissioner

“This painting's influence on Roman ambience could be felt in Raphael's subsequent works in the Pontifical Household.”

Raphael conveyed a sense of intimate everyday life through the sweetness of the Esterhazy Madonna. 

Her gesture contrasts with the magnificent scenery of the Tuscan countryside, in which Raphael included Roman ruins as a symbol of his renewed artistic life. 

CINZIA AMMANNATO
Exhbition commissioner

“Roman heritage is expressed in the background through Roman relics. The Temple of Vespasian and the Torre dei Conti in the Roman Forum are seen clearly.”

The work has its story. Pope Clement XI presented it as a gift to Empress Elisabeth of Brunswick after her conversion to Catholicism. 

Years later, the Habsburg gave the painting to the Esterhazy family, who were prestigious patrons. In the 19th century, their successors donated the work to the Hungarian State.  

Now, it will be displayed in Rome until April 8. 

FLAMINIA GENNARI SANTORI
Director, National Gallery of Ancient Art in Rome

“This work has rarely been shown in Italy. It's a special loan we've received from the National Museum in Budapest. It's part of an exchange agreement – we'll lend them other important works.”

The painting was stolen in 1983 and found a few weeks later in a Greek monastery. Now it returns to Rome, the city where it was completed.