(b. 1571, Caravaggio, d. 1610, Porto Ercole)

Madonna del Rosario

c. 1607
Oil on canvas, 365 x 250 cm
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

In its huge scale and multi-figured design the grandest of Caravaggio's paintings, this may have been commissioned by the Duke of Modena in 1605 and undertaken in Naples. It was offered to the Duke of Mantua in 1607 and was bought by a consortium of Flemish artists, including Rubens, by whom it was offered to the Dominican church in Antwerp.

The theme is Dominican. St Dominic and his friars spread the devotion of the rosary; and here the Madonna, as Queen of Heaven, issues orders to the saint to her right, who clutches a rosary, and the Dominican St Peter Martyr to her left. Beside St Peter Martyr stands the most famous of Dominican theologians, St Thomas Aquinas.

Madonna, Child and saints form a heavenly triangle concealed from the classically costumed suppliants at the front, who kneel in prayer with arms outstretched to St Dominic, while a donor in modern ruff and doublet eyes the viewer. The column to the left and the curtain overhead add to the formality of the scene. Caravaggio achieves an elaborate ordering and interlocking of forms that heralds the typical Baroque altarpiece.