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This painting has a 'votive' function: it was painted to fulfil a vow. It shows a woman being attacked by a man armed with a stiletto. Before the man can strike, she turns her mind to the statue of the Virgin known as the 'Madonna del Parto', which is depicted in the upper left corner of the painting. In her moment of crisis, she vows that if she survives this attack, she will have a votive picture of the scene painted, and will dedicate it to the 'Madonna del Parto' by having the picture placed in the same chapel as the statue, in the church of Sant'Agostino in Rome. The existence of the painting is evidence that she did recover from the attack, or that her attacker stayed his hand as a result of her appeal to the Virgin. The painting still carries streaks of candle wax from the time when it was placed in the church.
A Man Stabbing a Woman with a Stiletto
oil on canvas
H 30.1 x W 39.6 cm
purchased by Henry S. Wellcome, c.1900–1936