Q: Is there such a title or image as Our Lady of the Thumb? 

A: There is indeed a painting affectionately called Our Lady of the Thumb for no other reason than the fact that a single "thumbnail" is visible and emerges from the rich blue veil covering Mary's face. The painting is attributed to Carlo Dolci (1616-1686). In fact, according to F. Baldassari (Carlo Dolci, Arteme, 1995, 125/126) Our Lady of the Thumb is wrongly attributed to Carlo Dolci.

The painting--in Italian called Our Lady of the finger (Madonna del dito) is one of a series of Addolorata paintings wrongly attributed to Dolci. Among them we have: The Virgin of Budapest, of the St. Petersburg Ermitage, of the Turin Pinacoteca, and the one in the Ringling Museum in Sarasota. There are various versions of the Thumb-Madonna, among them, one in Florence (Galleria Corsini),[1] the other at the Galleria Borghese in Rome.[2] They seem to be copies or imitations of authentic Dolci paintings such as the Madonna Addolorata,[3] c. 1655 (Trafalgar Galleries, London) with the following inscription on the back: Regina Martyrum, ora pro nobis. On this painting, the folded hands of Mary are shown and not covered. This painting of the Addolorata is very similar to Dolci's Vergine Annunziata, ca. 1653-1655 (Louvre, Paris).[4] There is another Vergine Addolorata, c. 1681 (Staten Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen) by Dolci which comes closest to the Thumb Madonna.[5]

The overall posture of Mary's head and vestment are practically identical to at least one version (Corsini, Florence) of the Madonna del dito, with one -- the major difference: the thumb or finger is not visible. So who is the painter of Our Lady of the Thumb? Some specialists think it could be Onorio Marinari,[6] disciple of Dolci, who is credited with a number of paintings formerly attributed to Dolci. 

The Madonna del dito or Thumb Madonna is a very popular devotional painting and was reproduced countless times. Thus also the more or less subtle variations in vestment, finger pointing right instead of left, and the Madonna facing right instead of left.[7] One way or the other, what is commonly called Madonna of the Finger or Thumb is in fact a sorrowful mother frequently used as pendant to another Dolci painting, the Testa di Cristo (Head of Christ), 1681.[8]

 

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