The only foreign presence in the Matisse Room, the monumental Madonna was commissioned by Fr. Luigi Verzé in the mid 1950s. In a letter to the artist, the patron imagined it as “a mass of stone emerging from the earth like a cloud, in which the face clearly inspires the maternal presence”. Fontana produced a plaster study, around 130 cm high and compositionally very similar to the finished work: a stable, solid volume, with an extraordinary dynamism. Don Verzé approved it and Fontana proceeded with the final version. The complexity of the “boundaries” of the figure required painstaking work, carried out by marble workers from Vicenza with Fontana’s collaboration and supervision, to assemble the blocks that constituted the work, and in particular to refine the hands and the folds of the robe. The sculpture remained in the courtyard of Opera Don Calabria (Cimiano, Milan) until 1973, when it was donated to the Vatican Museums.