Italian painter, prolific at the Naples Rococo School, Giaquinto had a brilliant international career, notably for the Spanish monarchy in Madrid. As First Painter to the King, he oversaw the extensive decoration of his palaces and served as director of the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando. He greatly influenced an entire generation of Spanish painters as well as the young Goya. The artist returned to Italy in 1762. The Museum’s painting belongs to Giaquinto’s last period, after his return to Naples, a Spanish viceroyalty. It is part of a cycle of works on the life of the Virgin commissioned by the Spanish Crown for the sacristy of the Franciscan church of San Luigi di Palazzo, no longer extant. The commission included seven paintings which alluded to the theology of the Immaculate Conception, ranging from the Virgin’s birth to the Assumption. The belief in the Immaculate Conception, although only made dogma in the nineteenth century, was cherished by the Spanish long before that time. Giaquinto’s anecdote-rich rendition of the Visitation depicts the moment of encounter of Mary and Elizabeth, and their husbands Joseph and Zacharias. The previously barren Elizabeth, pregnant in her old age with John the Baptist, greets Mary with words prophesying that she will be the Mother of God. The Virgin’s exalted status is emphasized by the natural and mystical light that falls upon her. The iconography references to the architecture of the Holy Sepulchre — the domed building in the background — which would bear Christ’s body in death and had been partly under Franciscan supervision since the thirteenth century.