First let me state that I was mistaken when I said that all the images presented on the "UFOArtwork" site were dealt with on the "Art and UFOs? No
Thanks, Only Art" site (links for both provided above). The Art and UFOs site, the exceptional work of Diego Cuoghi, deals primarily with works of
Renaissance art. In no way does this mean that paintings and other images not from this era serve in any way as evidence of extraterrestrial contact.
One of the side effects of the typically messy presentation of these works all grouped together is that images of various natures read as all being
the same. There are legends and representations of legends of phenomena witnessed in the sky. While this is perhaps a step closer to a depiction of
an alien craft than misidentifying a red hat, it is still a mistake to group the images together and make generalized deductions about them as a
whole. They should each be examined and researched independently. One image that draws a lot of attention in this area, and that occupies a kind of
middle ground between depiction of a phenomena and Christian iconography is Masolino da Panicale's "The Miracle of the Snows".
Masolino da Panicale
The Miracle of the Snows c.1428 Early Italian Renaissance Florence
Originally commissioned by Bascilia di Santa Maria Maggiore
now held at the
Capodimante Museum in Naples.
Unlike the vast bulk of Italian Renaissance art, which dealt with scenes from the Bible or Greco-Roman myth, Masolino's "The Miracle of the Snows"
depicts a legendary scene from early in the history of the Catholic Church. According to the legend, in August of the year 358 CE,
and a Roman patrician named Giovanni simultaneously dreamt of the Madonna. In the
dream She asked the men to dedicate a chapel to Her on Esquilino Hill and that the exact location She desired would be indicated by a localized
snowfall. The next day the snow had fallen (on August 20th, in Italy) just as the apparition of the Virgin said it would. In 360 CE Pope Liberius
commissioned the construction of the chapel that would become the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore (The St. Mary Major Basilica). Due to his role the
building is alternately known as the Liberian Basilica. Giovanni paid for a large portion of the costs. The Basilica is said to be the oldest church
dedicated to the Virgin Mary.
Masolino enters the story almost 1,050 years later. He was commissioned by Pope Martin V
create an altarpiece for the Basilica depicting the miracle of its inception. The standard image of this painting is, not surprisingly, blurry. It
is also cropped. Here's a better version:
That's the back-story of this image. Obviously the reason it attracts so much attention is due to the disc-like shape of the clouds, which appear to
be a squadron of flying saucers flying in formation. The fact that Jesus and Mary are positioned in a nimbus above the foremost cloud only adds to
the effect of these objects as spacecraft, if one is to assume that Masolino was completely ignorant of proportion. Examination of his body of work
demonstrates that this is not the case. As with the Uccello "The Secrets of Eremite Life", many Early Italian Renaissance painters followed a
medieval pattern of displaying various tableaus together in a single composition. This is particularly true of altarpieces.
This full, cleaner, brighter and clearer version does allow one to see small details important in deciphering the image:
Quite clearly the clouds are dropping snow, just as the title and the legend suggest they should. Flying saucers are often associated with rays,
beams, flames and auras, but dropping snow is not one of their usual attributes. This should be enough to identify these objects as clouds but there
is further evidence. As the Renaissance progressed the emphasis of reviving the Classical era of nature study steadily increased. Early Renaissance
works display far more characteristics of medieval Christian iconography then the High Renaissance period typified by the work of Leonardo,
Michelangelo and Raphael. This means this era of art features far more stylized images of elements of nature. That this is a typical manner for
Masolino to depict clouds is easy to see through other samples of his work, such as this detail of his "Madonna and Child" (date unknown), Alte
That the elements of this image are meant to be read as icons rather than as an integrated scene should be apparent when one considers the legend
being described. In the foreground Pope Liberius is breaking ground based on the outline of the Basilica formed by the fallen snow. While the
building as it stands now is not reminiscent of its original form, it is safe to assume this important place of worship was much larger than in the
painting where it is apparently as wide as five to six people standing in a row.
There are numerous examples of works of art depicting this scene from throughout the middle ages and Renaissance. As an example here is a version by
Matthias Grunewald "The Miracle of the Snows" c.1517 German Renaissance
You can really see the stylistic development that took place over the hundred years between the Masolino and the Grunewald, despite the near (but
reversed) identical composition of the foreground elements. The apparition of the Virgin in the Grunewald is at the top of the picture plane, high in
the sky, appearing like sunlight reflecting through the clouds. In the middle ground you can see the form of the sleeping Pope in bed dreaming his
While it is not the purpose of this thread to discuss the validity of Catholic legends of miraculous events, some may be interested to know that small
bursts of localized snowfall in spring and even summer are possible in Italy and many places. When it happens it is an extraordinary event but not a
miracle. Snow has been recorded to have fallen in Calabria on May 12th, 1755, in Lugiana on July 1st, 1756 and recently in Prato on August 5th, 2000.
It is possible that such an event occurred in 358, and that an associative legend was developed attached to the construction of the new Basilica.
As Masolino is an often-overlooked figure in the Renaissance who deserves to be recognized for the beauty of his work rather than the saucer-like
shape of his clouds, I'm including the image painted on the reverse of "the Miracle of the Snows" panel, "The Madonna and Jesus":
One can't help but notice that the position of the flying Jesus at the top of the picture is strikingly similar to depictions of Superman. While
Superman could be considered a messiah-figure from an alien world (with solar connotations), I'm guessing this is merely a coincidence.
[edit on 29-12-2005 by Cicada]