"Madonna with Saint Giovannino": UFO-Inspired Art?

| Sun, 12/28/2014 - 02:00

There is one painting in the Loeser Collection at Florence’s Palazzo Vecchio that never fails to intrigue the visitors that come to gaze at it. This painting is The Madonna with Saint Giovannino. Painted in the 15th century by Domenico Ghirlandaio (1449-1494), it is the strange object floating in the sky that has people baffled.

The "Loeser Bequest" comprises of over thirty works of art and period furnishings that American collector Charles Alexander Loeser bequeathed to Florence upon his death in 1928.

Loeser’s bequest carried several conditions, one of which was written acknowledgement by the Italian State that the donor’s heirs were entitled to export the remaining works in his collection for viewing elsewhere without monetary charges of any kind. Other conditions dictated which rooms in Palazzo Vecchio should house which artefacts and the layout of the paintings on display. The bequest stipulated that the works of art should not be displayed as if in a museum, but that they should be, “simply beautiful for the repose and enjoyment of the visitor”.

The Charles Loeser Association and the Florentine Civic Museums have been working together for many years to conserve and protect the valuable collection that is housed just a five-minute walk from Florence’s famous Ponte Vecchio at the Museo di Palazzo Vecchio on Piazza della Signoria.

The Madonna with Saint Giovannino painting has also been attributed to Jacopo del Sellaio and to Sebastiano Mainardi; but it’s not the speculation over the work’s creator that draws the crowds, rather, it’s the claims by alien theorists that it clearly depicts an extra-terrestrial object. For hovering in the background, just above the left shoulder of the Madonna, is an oval shaped object and beneath this stands a man who appears to be looking up at the strange shape in the sky, while at his feet his dog appears to be barking at it.

A multitude of bright beams of light are emitted from the suspected UFO that appears to be a substantial construction and it’s this that convinces some people that the shape is a flying saucer.

Two other suggestions that alien theorists have used is that the Madonna has deliberately positioned herself so that she can shield the children in her lap and that her halo, which looks vaporous, is possibly being diminished by the object in the sky.

In truth, many artists inserted symbols into their artworks, random pieces of iconography to please the pious and potential purchasers of their artworks. The object painted here by Ghirlandaio could simply be his interpretation of an angelic presence or a depiction of a brilliant star, for on the left of the painting there’s a depiction of the Nativity star. Or, it may, who knows, be an ancient and now forgotten piece of Christian iconography.

I will let you decide whether the object is extra-terrestrial, ethereal or simply religious iconography.

For Museo di Palazzo Vecchio's up-to-date information and admission charges, click here.