Placed on the altar of the Cappella Altemps in the church of Santa Maria in Trastevere (Rome) in 1593, the medieval icon of the Virgin and Christ known as the Madonna della Clemenza was the focal point of a newly decorated space. The chapel’s pictorial program underscores that decisions ratified at the Council of Trent were not only situated in the context of biblical history, but were also directly connected to the presence of the cult image of the Madonna della Clemenza. This article will explore the late sixteenth-century architectural and decorative reframing of the icon as a means of understanding the potential experiential value of the chapel’s devotional space. This analysis will underscore the continuing significance of medieval cult images in the context of Church reform that characterized the Counter-Reformation.
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