Salus Populi Romani

19th century
Oil on canvas
Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome

This is a 19th century copy of the ancient icon Salus Populi Romani. The name means "Health [or Salvation] of the Roman People." Legend has it that the original, also in Santa Maria Maggiore, was painted by St. Luke the Evangelist and brought by St. Helena in the 4th century to Rome, where it was credited with a miraculous delivery of the city from the plague in the 6th century. Another painting in the basilica represents St. Luke painting the icon.

The icon is like the Virgin Hodegetria in the look and arrangement of the mantle, the Virgin's frontal gaze, the child's two-finger blessing, and the placement of a book in his left hand. But in the Salus, instead of pointing to the Christ Child, the Virgin's right hand reaches over to rest protectively on the child's lap.

More of the Virgin and Child

Photographed at the basilica by Richard Stracke, shared under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.