late 12th – early 13th century
Unknown of Roman school
Icon of Byzantine influence representing the Madonna Hodegetria, particular half-lenght portrait of the Madonna holding the Blessing Infant with the Holy Scriptures.
The Latin writing on the bottom says: THE VIRGIN GAVE BIRTH TO HIM WHO FALSE WISDOM DENIED
The painting on chestnut wood has a pronounced curvature and two breaks that have been corrected with the insertion of ten wooden wedges.
The canvas incamottatura does not completely cover the wood leaving the possibility that the original wooden support was changed.
There are many gaps in the historic documentation necessary for an exact understanding of the work. The sources agree that the traditional name of Madonna della Carbonara comes from the Viterbo church with this name but no documents mention the presence of the painting in this church before 1523 when the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem arrived in Viterbo from Rhodes after being defeated by the Turks. The church got its name from the fortified area of the city where it stands, commonly known as “carbonaia” or “carbonara”.
The knights brought numerous sacred images from Rhodes and several were left in Viterbo as thanks for hospitality received, among these the Filermo Madonna, the Damascena and the Eleimoneitria: the first two can be identified with paintings still in Viterbo. The third has been hypothetically identified as the Madonna della Carbonara. The painting remained in the church of Santa Maria until 1911 when Cardinal Pietro La Fontaine had it transferred to the Cathedral. He considered the image of the Virgin and Child and its inscription: Alma Virgo Parti Qui Falsa Solfia negavit of a particular anti-Catar meaning. When it was transferred it was also restored in a very invasive way with a thick coat of paint. This was done by Francesco Cochetti, who was assigned to restore paintings of the Civic Museum before it was opened to the public, according to Rinaldi.
In 1946 Garrison noticed the painting in the church of Santa Maria Nova then it was again transferred to the Duomo. The work was stolen in 1986 and when it was found by the Carabinieri of the Nucleo Tutela Beni Cultuali it was again restored. Since 2000 it has been exhibited in the Diocesan Museum del Colle del Duomo.
– ANDREWS 1978: Andrews, D., Medieval masonry in Northern Lazio: it’s development and uses for dating, in Papers in Italian archaeology I: a cura di H mck. Blake-T. W. Potter-D. B. Whitehouse, Oxford 1978 (British Archaeological Reports, Supplementary Series, 41), pp. 391-412 (trad. it. di C. Comodi, L’evoluzione della tecnica muraria nell’alto Lazio, in “Biblioteca e società”, IV, (1982), pp. 1-16.
– CORETINI: Coretini, Brevi notizie sulla città di Viterbo e degli uomini illustri da essa prodotta, Blogna 1774, p.42
– CECCOTTI MS: Ceccotti, L., L’antica chiesa di Santa Maria in Carbonara, manoscritto (Viterbo, Biblioteca Diocesana).
– CIAMPI 1872: Ciampi, I. (a cura di), Cronache e statuti della città di Viterbo, Firenze 1872.
– GARRISON: E.B. Garrison, Studies in the History of Medieval Italian Painting, vol. III Firenze, vol. III p. 210
– GILMOUR BRYSON 1982: Gilmour Bryson, A., The trial of Templars in the Papal State and Abruzzi, Città del vaticano 1982.
– LANCONELLI 1994: Lanconelli, A., La terra buona, Bologna 1994.
– PULETTI 1968: Puletti, I cavalieri di Malta e la Madonna della Quercia, Viterbo 1968, p.24
– RICCI 2009: Ricci, F., Madonna della Carbonara, in “Cavalieri. Dai templari a Napoleone” catalogo della mostra a La Venaria Reale (2009-2010)
– RINALDI: Rinaldi, S., Epistolario viterbese di Edward B. Garrison sulle icone del Museo Civico, in “Informazioni” periodico ufficio documentazione e valorizzazione delle risorse territoriali della provincia di Viterbo, terza serie, n.20, pp. 15-22.
– SCRIATTOLI 1933: Scriattoli, A., Santa Maria in Carbonara, in “Bollettino municipale”, Viterbo, marzo 1933.
– SIGNORELLI G. MS: Signorelli, G., chiese, conventi e confraternite, manoscritto (Viterbo, Biblioteca Comunale).
– SILVESTRELLI 1917: Silvestrelli, G., Le chiese e i feudi dell’Ordine dei Templari e dell’Ordine di San Giovanni di Gerusalemme nella regione romana, in Rendiconti della Reale Accademia dei lincei, serie V, Vol. XXVI, Roma 1917.