The Virgin of Mercy is a subject in Christian art, showing a group of people sheltering for protection under the outspread cloak of the Virgin Mary. It was especially popular in Italy from the 13th to 16th centuries, often as a specialised form of votive portrait, and is also found in other countries and later art, especially Catalonia and Latin America. In Italian it is known as the Madonna della Misericordia (Madonna of Mercy), in German as the Schutzmantelmadonna (Sheltering-cloak Madonna), and in French as the Vièrge au Manteau or Vierge de Miséricorde (Virgin with a cloak or Virgin of Mercy). The subject was often commissioned by specific groups such as families, confraternities, guilds or convents or abbeys, and then the figures represent these specific groups, as shown by their dress, or by the 15th century individual portraits. Sometimes arrows rain down from above, which the cloak prevents from reaching the people.
Usually the image, whether in sculpture or painting, stands by itself, but in the most famous example, the Madonna della Misericordia altarpiece in Sansepolcro by Piero della Francesca, of 1445-62, the subject is the central panel of a large altarpiece, with a smaller Crucifixion above it, and many other panels.
Probably the oldest version known is a small panel by Duccio of ca. 1280, with three Franciscan friars under the cloak. Here the Virgin sits, only one side of the cloak is extended, and the Virgin holds her child on her knee with her other hand.
The Chiesa di Santa Maria delle Grazie in Arezzo houses a fresco of the Madonna della Misericordia by Parri di Spinello (1387-1452), the son of the more celebrated Spinello of Arezzo.
Art in Tuscany | Madonna della Misericordia | Madonna of Mercy
 Don Giuliano left the Florentine Convento degli Angeli in 1466, where he had been registered as pictor et eruditus nimis (Pasqui, 1926, p. 12). In 1467 he was prior of the convent of San Giorgio at Camerino. In 1470 he was appointed abbot of Santa Maria di Agnano. According to Salmi he painted miniatures for Malatesta Novello at Cesena between 1446 and 1454, and in 1462-64 was in Rome, active on behalf of Pius II; later he was to fresco in the very loggia of San Marco that had probably been designed by Francesco del Borgo. Amadei was once more in Rome, working as a miniaturist and frescoer between 1467 and 1472 (cf. Ruysschaert, 1968, Callmann, 1975, Freuler, 1991). The triptych in Tifi is certainly more stylistically advanced than his work on the Polyptych of the Misericordia, which is instead closer to the Thebaid panel, whose fragments have been reunited by Callmann and which a convincing hypothesis credits to the master before he left the Florentine convent. The collaboration with Piero began around 1446 when Amadei left Florence, or 1456 when he left Cesena. The first date is more likely than the second, both for stylistic reasons and also because the Thebaid is similar to the predella in the Misericordia. Cesena offers another due: in fact the illuminated initial with Numa Pompilius which Salmi attributes to Amadei in a manuscript of the Lives of Plutarch, in the Malatestiana Library already contains an indication of the Aix triptych, as does the predella.
 'The Misericordia Polyptychis a resonant reflection of the spiritual and visual culture of Sansepolcro that helped shape Piero. As historians have recognized, the sacred and civic culture of Sansepolcro was distinctive in many respects. 11One, as mentioned above, was the town’s association with the tomb of Christ, commemorated by its name and dedication to the Holy Sepulcher; another was its importance as a site of pilgrimage. When Saints Arcanus and Giles returned to the town from the Holy Land, they brought with them priceless relics of the Passion that became objects of public veneration: 12 wood from the “most holy cross on which our Lord Jesus Christ was placed for the redemption of human sin;” drops of his blood; cloth from the shroud wrapping “the most sacred body of our Lord Jesus Christ after he was lowered from the cross;” fragments of “the stone from the Holy Sepulcher” from which “the name of this land was taken;” “hair and milk of the blessed Virgin and stone from her tomb;” and relics of John the Evangelist, the town’s patron. 13 The display of these relics on September 1– the jointly celebrated Feast of the Holy Sepulcher and of Saint Arcanus – was among the most important celebrations in the town, honored by processions, masses, and the giving of alms. 14These relics were deemed so potent that Sansepolcro became an important destination for many pilgrims in the late Middle Ages and Renaissance. '
The Cambridge companion to Piero della Francesca | edited by Jeryldene M. Wood.
The Madonna della Misericordia, an anonymous 14th century fresco in the Bigallo, Florence
The Madonna of Mercy (Misericordia) was painted by the Bernardo Daddi school in 1342 in the building now dedicated to the Bigallo orphanage, and which had been the Misericordia Confraternity. Across from it the newer headquarters of the Misericordia still dispense medical care and run ambulances. The members of the Misericordia had laid the first stone of Florence's Cathedral seven hundred years ago. Every Maundy Thursday the Cardinal of Florence washes the feet of eleven Misericordia workers.
This fresco is one of the most important keys for unlocking the vocation and for deepening the meaning of Florence. The Madonna wears a crown like that of the Empress Matilda, with the saving Tau in blood, and it is she who protects the city with the weapons of the acts of mercy as Jesus had listed them in the Gospel, these acts being given in the medallions of her mantle that contain these words.
|Le Opere di Piero della Francesca | Itinerario Sansepolcro Monterchi Arezzo
The exhibition extends and becomes an itinerary throughout the territory, allowing visitors to discover Piero's works in the Bacci Chapel in the Church of San Francesco in Arezzo, in the Dome of Arezzo, in the Museum Madonna del Parto in Monterchi and in the Civic Museum in Sansepolcro.
* Polyptych of Mercy, Civic Museum
* Resurrection, Civic Museum
* San Giuliano, Civic Museum
* San Ludovico, Civic Museum
The small town of Sansepolcro, built around a great Benedictine Abbey, has kept essentially unaltered its medieval urban structure, enriched over the years with beautiful Renaissance and Baroque buildings. Sansepolcro was Piero della Francesca’s native town, and its Civic Museum is a tribute to the Biturgense artist. Works such as the Resurrection, a highly complex and symbolic work, the Polyptich of Mercy, San Giuliano and San Ludovico bear witness to the early Renaissance artist’s genius. The Cathedral has the interesting “Holy Face”, a wooden crucifix of Carolingian times, the Polyptych by Francesco di Segna and the Ascension by Perugino. The Cathedral is flanked by the manneristical Palazzo delle Laudi, now seat of the Town Council. Other artistic works may be seen just by walking around the town centre, such as the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie and the Church of San Francesco. Visitors cannot miss the Church of San Lorenzo, with the Deposition by Rosso Fiorentino. The heart of the town centre is Piazza Torre di Berta, where, on the second Sunday of September, there is the traditional Palio della Balestra - the costumes worn by the figurantes draw from paintings by Piero della Francesca.
Civic Museum | Polyptych of Mercy
An early expression of a new form of painting, the work clearly represents the revolutionary force of Piero’s art. Within an iconography that follows a predefined traditional scheme, Piero’s figures assume extremely modern poses, typical of his own art right from its very first expressions.
Civic Museum | Resurrection of Christ
The fresco, characterised by highly geometric volumes, represents an imposing and austere Christ in all His strength.
Civic Museum | San Giuliano
An absolute, detached, and transcendental figure, in his physical built and striking geometry, the figure identified as San Giuliano is an unmistakable example of the uniqueness of Piero’s mature style.
Civic Museum | San Ludovico
The fresco (removed from Palazzo Pretorio) has a fundamental civic importance and is an example of Piero’s work in his native town; it is the only fragment left of a more complete, though now lost, work.
* Madonna del Parto [the Pregnant Virgin Mary], Museum Madonna del Parto
The medieval hamlet stands in a location that was considered sacred by the Romans, and where the cult of Hercules used to be worshipped.
Visitors interested in Piero della Francesca’s art cannot but stop in this small town, placed between two small valleys (Val Padonchia and Val Cerfone), surrounded by holm-oak-covered hills. Piero della Francesca’s mother was born here, as witnessed by the small museum dedicated to her figure (right in the centre of the town), which also contains the famous fresco Madonna del Parto, an extraordinary portrait of the pregnant Virgin Mary.
Museo Madonna del Parto | Madonna del Parto
Painted in just seven days, the fresco represents one of the highest examples of Piero’s art.
Madonna del Parto is a masterpiece of figurative and chromatic synthesis, of equilibrium, formal essentialism, measure and extreme emotional depth. It is the image of a profound dignity, in which the Virgin’s body is moulded by solid geometries.
* Legend of the True Cross, Bacci Chapel, Basilica of San Francesco
* Santa Maria Maddalena, Dome
Arezzo stands on a hill in eastern Tuscany, just behind the Apennines between Tuscany and Romagna. The architecture of its centre is evidence of the town’s ancient origins: it was one of the main centres of the Etruscans and a strategic city in Roman times. The highest part of the town is typically medieval, dominated by the Cathedral and the Medici’s Fortress. The Gothic Cathedral has valuable works of art, including Magdalene by Piero della Francesca and precious glass windows decorated with historical scenes by Guillaume de Marcillat. Right in the centre of the town, the Piazza Grande encompasses a wide range of architectural styles. Besides the medieval towers, there stands the majestic Loggiato Vasariano - one of the most interesting architectural works of the Renaissance -, the Palazzo della Fraternita dei Laici - a fine example of both gothic and renaissance style -, and the apse of the Parish Church of Santa Maria. On the third Saturday of June and on the first Sunday of September, Piazza Grande becomes the setting for the Giostra del Saracino, a medieval tournament. On the first Sunday of each month and on the previous Saturday, an important Antiques’ Fair is held in the piazza and in many areas of the historical centre. The Bacci Chapel in the Basilica of San Francesco is splendidly decorated with the extraordinary cycle of frescoes of the Legend of the True Cross by Piero della Francesca, one of the finest examples of Italian Renaissance painting. In the simple one-nave Basilica of San Domenico, visitors can admire the Cross painted by Cimabue, one of his early works. With their beauty and architectural originality, many other churches and palaces pay tribute to Arezzo’s culture and importance throughout history, including the Abbey of Sante Flora and Lucilla, the Church of Santissima Annunziata, Palazzo Pretorio and Palazzo dei Priori and, just a couple of minutes away from the city walls, the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, and the Romanesque Parish Church of Sant’Eugenia al Bagnoro. The city museums - the Archaeological Museum Gaio Cilnio Mecenate, the State Museum of Medieval and Modern Art, Vasari’s Museum and House, the House & Museum Ivan Bruschi - allow visitors to admire extremely valuable works.
Legend of the True Cross
The cycle of frescoes in the choir of the Basilica of San Francesco is unanimously considered to be Piero della Francesca’s masterpiece. It was restored in the first half of the 1990s thanks to the fundamental contribution of Banca Etruria [www.pierodellafrancesca.it]; its 12 scenes can thus now be fully admired in all their gripping theatricality. The cycle represents a form of humanity oriented towards its icon in its earthly and human perfection, and in which the legend, reduced to basic, assumes an epical resonance.
Dome | Santa Maria Maddalena
Solidly painted through a polished and pure colour geometry, the Magdalene, marked by traditional iconographic elements, effuses a serious and solemn sense of sacredness.
Visitors are invited to discover Piero della Francesca’s works in the province of Arezzo, by following an itinerary going through Valtiberina, Sansepolcro, Monterchi - the native hamlet of Piero’s mother Monna Romana - and Arezzo.
The Upper Valley of the Tevere river, or Valtiberina, is on the far east of Tuscany, and takes its name after the river that runs across it up to the border with Umbria. In the past, Valtiberina represented both the border and meeting point between different civilizations, the Umbri and the Etruscans, the Bizantines and the Longobardi. Piero della Francesca, in Borgo San Sepocro itself, was able to perceive the secrets of space and light, reflecting them into his works.
The Civic Museum of Sansepolcro, the artist’s native town, holds four works, the Polyptych of Mercy, the Resurrection, San Giuliano and San Ludovico.
After visiting Sansepolcro, the itinerary continues in Monterchi, in Val Cerfone. In Monterchi, which stands on the top of a hill on the border with Umbria, Piero della Francesca painted the extraordinary fresco of Madonna del Parto, in the old church of Santa Maria a Momentana.
The itinerary continues and ends in Arezzo. A splendid town standing on a hill in eastern Tuscany, just behind the Apennines between Tuscany and Romagna, Arezzo used to be one of the most important Etruscan cities and later became a strategic centre for the Romans. Here, Piero della Francesca painted one of the most important masterpieces of the Renaissance. The Bacci Chapel in the Basilica of San Francesco contains Piero della Francesca’s frescoed cycle of the Legend of the True Cross, painted for the Franciscan church between 1452 and 1466. The Dome of Arezzo displays the fresco Magdalene (at the bottom of the left nave).
Piero della Francesca and the Italian Courts |31st March – 22nd July 2007
Resurrection, Civic Museum, Sansepolcro
San Giuliano, Civic Museum, Sansepolcro
Madonna del Parto [the Pregnant Virgin Mary], Museum Madonna del Parto
Legend of the True Cross, Bacci Chapel, Basilica of San Francesco
Santa Maria Maddalena, Dome, Arezzo