What Happened on Christmas Eve of 1517? Find out in this article along with many other curiosities hidden in the history of this painting

What Happened on Christmas Eve of 1517? Find out in this article along with many other curiosities hidden in the history of this painting

This impressive and monumental early 18th century Italian old master oil on canvas painting dates back to 1733 housed in a stunning hand carved and gilt wood frame features a religious scene with The Virgin Mary,The Holy Baby, Saint Gaetano from Thiene surrounded by winged cherubs and putto.

This rectangular artwork signed by Michelangelo Buonocore and dated 1733 is a huge scale painting since it was once an altarpiece.

The precious intricately hand carved gilt wood frame gilded with gold leaves belongs to the same period,
it was certainly custom made for this painting and it’s a one-of-a-kind work of art itself!

Michelangelo Buonocore was a well known painter of Neapolitan origins, active in early 18th Century in south and middle Italy, the most promising pupil of Paolo de Matteis he also studied in the workshop of Joseph Mastroleo. His artworks paintings are exposed in a lot of important churches in Italy.

But let’s focus on the subject of the painting which is steeped in history and legend The title of the work is “The apparition of the Virgin to Saint Gaetano” and this exceptional event is evidenced in some letters that Saint Gaetano wrote to his spiritual guide, an augustinian nun, Laura Mignani. Gaetano describes the mystical scene he witnessed. During the Christmas eve of 1517 while he was absorbed in prayer in the hall of the crib in the church of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome, the Virgin Mary appears to him and even hands him the newborn baby Jesus in his arms. This is a very tender and intimate scene that differs from the standard and classic iconographies of the saints that that we are used to seeing and is also emblematic of the figure and personality of Gaetano. Gaetano was born in Vicenza in 1480 from a noble family and studied law but he already knew that his faith and his vocation would have led him elsewhere and this elsewhere is Naples. After a short period in Rome, Gaetano dedicated himself to the poorest and most disadvantaged population of the city of Naples, strengthened the activity of the “Incurable” hospital (complesso degli incurabli) and thanks to his will the sacred pawnshop was founded from which the future bank of Naples will then be born. But Gaetano does even more, he vows of his own life to save Naples and its inhabitants. In fact, in the year of his death 1547, Naples was devastated by a very bloody popular uprising.
Maybe not everyone knows that the people of Naples were the only population to actively rebel against the will to establish a court of the inquisition in their city and after only two months after Gaetano’s death, it is said that peace has returned to the city. This is one of the reasons why the Neapolitans are still very devoted to the Saint, his remains are preserved in the church of San Paolo Maggiore in the historic city center, the church is placed in a square dedicated to Gaetano. Another curiosity concerns the tradition of making the crib both at home and in places of worship, now widespread mostly worldwide.
It is said that the birth of this tradition is due precisely to St. Gaetano who had his mystical vision right in front of the Bethlehem crib that had been taken to the Roman church.