The Miracle of the Madonna of the Fire, c. 1725


Oil on canvasexpand_more

The John R. Van Derlip Fundexpand_more  71.46

On the night of February 4, 1428, a devastating fire broke out in a schoolhouse in Forlì, a town in northern Italy. Eyewitnesses reported that everything in the school burned except a humble woodcut representing the Madonna and Child. In the foreground, precious books, a writing board, and dishes are scattered amid the chaos. As the bucket brigade and schoolboys race to put out the fire, they witness the woodcut miraculously fluttering to safety. That 15th-century print, by an unknown artist, survives to this day and is now known as the "Madonna of the Fire" (or "Madonna del Fuoco"). It is a treasured possession of the Cathedral of Santa Croce in Forlì, where it is an object of devotion and, reportedly, responsible for miracles.

Milani painted this work at the request of Cardinal Fabrizio Paolucci (1651–1726) for a chapel in San Marcello al Corso, Rome. Mia’s picture is a highly finished modello for the larger, almost identical painting hanging in that church. Paolucci was born in Forlì 120 years after the famous fire, but Milani inserted him here as a witness—he’s the cleric at right who points out the miracle to the viewer.

The Miracle of the Madonna of the Fire
Artist Life
Italian (Bologna), 1675 - 1747
Accession Number
Curator Approved

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