This study focuses on the development, design and function of altar paintings in 15th–17th century Italy that incorporate miraculous images of the Virgin Mary. Artists created new altarpieces, especially for older paintings of the Madonna,intended to augment them as frames or shrines – to visually and emotionally guide the viewer’s perceptions. The author is the first to systematically dedicate herself to this genre of “veneration frames.” One section of the catalogue reveals not just the wide distribution of such works in Northern and Central Italy, but also their iconographic and stylistic continuity.
Based on selected works by artists such as Empoli, Santi di Tito and Francesco Vanni, this study explains the subject matter, materiality and mediality of multipart paintings. It anchors the use of such framing devices within the devout practices observed during the age of the Catholic Reformation.Taking into consideration numerous inventory books, historical treatises and local guidebooks, this publication shows the significance of the framing images for the veneration of paintings that were believed to possess miraculous powers.