In its efforts to fight the Protestant Reformation of the 1500s, the Roman Catholic Church commissioned artists to produce tender, emotional images that might make its theology more approachable. Federico Barocci was a leading painter of such works. He made just a few prints, but they proved enormously popular and influential. In this freely and delicately drawn etching, he depicts the Virgin Mary as the Queen of Heaven enthroned on a cloud. Her son, Jesus, naked and vulnerable, uses his right hand to bless us and his left to hold a rose whose thorns foreshadow the crown of thorns he is forced to wear prior to his crucifixion.
Image: Federico Barocci, Italian, c. 1535–1612, Madonna and Child in the Clouds, c. 1581, etching. Gift of John Crosby P.47.1048