CorreggioAntonio Allegri, called Correggio from his native town, some thirty miles from Parma. The wording of the contract of 30 August 1514 for the Madonna of St Francis (now in Dresden) can be interpreted to mean that he was over twenty-five years old at the time, implying that he was born in or before 1489. His artist training is uncertain. He may have been taught initially by his uncle, Lorenzo Allegri. According to a seventeenth-century source, he was pupil of the minor Modenese painter Francesco Bianchi Ferrari. He was traditionally also a pupil of Mantegna, and Ippolito Donesmondi (1612-16) ascribes to him frescoes in Mantegna’s funerary chapel in Sant’Andrea, Mantua. The Mantua connection has been confirmed by the discovery of a notarial document (published in 1996) showing that in January 1512 'Antonio de Alegris de Corigio pictori' loaned money to Mantegna's son, Francesco.
The Madonna of St Francis of 1514-15 is Correggio's earliest documented picture, but there are a substantial number of attributed earlier paintings (mainly half-length Madonnas and other small devotional panels). His main formative influences seem to have been Mantegna, whose sotto in sù perspective he developed in his great illusionistic ceiling decorations, and Leonardo, from whom he derived his soft sfumato oil painting technique. His mature works also show a familiarity with the Roman works of Michelangelo and Raphael. Sixteenth-century sources (Vasari and Ortensio Landi) claim that he never visited Rome, but some modern writers believe that he must have done so. From 1518 he worked mainly in Parma. He had moved there by the early 1520s but is often recorded back in his hometown. He died on 5 March 1534 in Correggio (of a sudden fever brought on by walking in the sun according to Vasari) and was buried in the church of San Francesco there.
Correggio’s influence was immense for centuries: his altarpieces inspired Federico Barocci and the Carracci; his night scenes (most famously La Notte in Dresden) anticipate the ‘tenebrism’ of Savoldo and Tintoretto; his dome decorations foreshadow the Roman Baroque of Lanfranco and Pietro da Cortona; and his sensuous, playful mythologies and soft technique influenced the French Rococo of Boucher and Prud’hon. His reputation peaked in the late eighteenth century and declined in the nineteenth. It has never fully recovered.
Leda. Canvas, 152 x 191.
Leda, wife of the King of Sparta, was seen bathing in the river Eurotas by Jupiter, who took the form of a Swan in order to approach her. The picture shows three episodes from the story: on the extreme right Leda tries to ward off the swan; in the centre she sits on the river bank, the swan between her knees; and on the right she is dressed by her maid as the swan flies off. Cupid sits at the foot of the tree playing a lyre. One of four canvases showing the amorous adventures of Jupiter: the others are the Danäe in the Borghese Gallery, Rome, and the Ganymede and the Io (which are both vertical in format) in Vienna. They were painted for Federico II Gonzaga, but were soon given to Charles V, possibly when the emperor visited Mantua in 1530 or 1532. The Leda was purchased in 1755 by Frederick the Great for 21,060 livres. The canvas was slashed in the eighteenth century by Louis, the son of Philippe, Duc d’Orléans, in a fit of religious frenzy, and the head of Leda is a reconstruction by the restorer Jacob Schlesinger. To judge from an early seventeenth-century Spanish copy of the painting (Prado, Madrid), Leda's head was originally tilted much more to the left.
Boston. Museum of Fine Arts.
Head of Angel. Fresco (transferred to panel), 22 x 20.
A small fragment of the fresco of the Coronation of the Virgin painted around 1522 in the apse of the church of San Giovanni Evangelista at Parma. The fresco was partly destroyed in 1587-88 when the choir of the church was enlarged. The central part is preserved in the Galleria Nazionale at Parma, and three other surviving fragments with angel heads are in the National Gallery, London. Bought by the museum for $2,800 in 1956 from the dealer Adolph Loewi of Los Angeles. Not usually on show.
Budapest. Museum of Fine Arts.
‘Madonna del Latte’. Wood, 69 x 57.
The struggling Child rejects the Virgin’s milk in favour of fruits (pears, quinces, cherries?) offered by an angel. The composition was extremely popular to judge from the many replicas and engravings. The Budapest version is thought to be that recorded in the Aldobrandini collection in Rome in 1603. It was acquired by Prince Miklós Esterházy at Naples in 1795. Old copies suggest that the picture originally had a landscape background.
Chicago. Art Institute.
Virgin and Child and St John. Wood, 64 x 50.
Correggio seems to have drawn on a range of sources in this early work The pose of the Madonna is similar to that in Mantegna’s altarpiece for Santa Maria in Organo (now in the Castello Sforzesco, Milan); the landscape may have been inspired by Dürer’s prints; and the pyramidal grouping of the figures recalls the Florentine Holy Families of Leonardo and Raphael. The lemons on the trellis are probably symbols of the Virgin. The picture is first recorded in 1815 in the collection of the French diplomat and man of letters Baron Nicholas Massias. It was sold in 1825 as a work of Bernardino Luini. During the twentieth century, it was in private collections in Germany and Milan. Acquired by the Chicago Institute in 1965. It is still in excellent condition, despite having been transferred to a processed wood support. The original panel was split when the picture was thrown out of a second floor window during an attempted theft in 1966.
Correggio. Museo Civico.
Pietá. Wood, 34 x 29.
The subject and small size suggest that this panel was made for private devotion. It is in Correggio's early style. There are a number of versions, but the one at Correggio is considered the best and has been accepted as the original by several recent critics. Previously owned by Mrs Lore Heinemann (widow of the international dealer Rudolf Heinemann), it was restored at the National Gallery of Washington in 1999-2000 and acquired by the Fondazione Il Correggio in 2002. Trimmed on at least three sides.
Head of Christ. Wood, 24 x 18.
This damaged little panel was acquired by the Fondazione Il Correggo in 1996. Ekserdjian (1997) thought it might be a copy, but it has been accepted as autograph by a number of other critics. There is a similar picture in the Getty Museum, Los Angeles.
Detroit. Institute of Arts.
Mystic Marriage of Saint Catherine. Wood, 135 x 123.
The kneeling St Catherine, with broken wheel and martyr’s palm, receives the ring on the right; the pointing Baptist with Leonardesque smile on the left; with SS. Elizabeth (or Anne) and Zacharias (or Joseph) behind. Almost certainly, the earliest of Correggio’s surviving altarpieces (about 1510?). Its original location is a mystery. In Charles I’s collection (as a Luini), and in the Commonwealth Sale as a ‘Mantua peece’ by Gaudenzio Ferrari. From 1783 to 1826 in the collection of the Austrian statesman Wenzel Anton, Prince of Kaunitz, at Vienna. Given to the Detroit Institute in 1926 by Mrs Anna Scripps Whitcomb, daughter of the newspaper magnate James E. Scripps.
‘Madonna of Saint Francis’. Wood, 299 x 245.
The Madonna and Child are enthroned on a high pedestal within a colonnade looking out into the open countryside. The oval relief, flanked by putti beneath the throne, represents Moses with the tablets of the law. On the left of the throne stand St Francis and St Anthony of Padua, on the right St Catherine and the Baptist. The head of St Anthony is thought to be a self-portrait. The pose of the Madonna is inspired by Mantegna’s Madonna of Victory, while the influence of Leonardo is obvious in the figure of the Baptist. Signed on St Catherine’s wheel. The altarpiece is Correggio’s earliest documented work. It was commissioned on 30 August 1514 for San Francesco, the most important church in Correggio, after a local citizen, Quirino Zuccardi, left a house to the Franciscan Minorites on the condition that an altarpiece be painted for their church. Correggio was paid 100 ducats, half down and the balance on the completion of the picture on 5 April 1515. The altarpiece was removed from the church by the Duke of Modena in 1636, and was sold – along with other works by Correggio in the Este collection – by Francesco III to Augustus III, Elector of Saxony, in 1745-6.
‘Madonna of Saint Sebastian’. Wood, 265 x 161.
The Virgin, seated on a cloud and surrounded by cherubs and angels, appears in glory to three saints. The naked Sebastian is bound to a tree on the left. Geminianus, kneeling in the centre in a bishop's surplice and cope, points towards the Virgin. The patron saint of Modena, he is attended by an angel holding a model of the town. Roch is on the right in his pilgrim's garb. Though enfeebled by the plague, he too gestures towards the Virgin. The picture was commissioned by the Confraternity of Saint Sebastian at Modena for their oratory (rebuilt in 1662). It appears to date from the mid-1520s and was possibly a thank-offering after the plague of 1523. In 1659 the picture was acquired by Alfonso IV, Duke of Modena, and a copy by the French painter Jean Boulanger substituted. Sold to Augustus III in 1745-6.
Nativity (‘La Notte’). Wood, 256 x 188.
The Child, lying on a bundle of wheat (a reference to the Eurcharist), is the source of light for the whole picture, illuminating the young shepherd standing on the left and the boy-angels overhead, bleaching the Virgin’s smiling face and dazzling the midwife standing at the end of the makeshift cot. Probably Correggio’s most famous picture, known as ‘La Notte’ (‘The Night’) since at least 1619. Commissioned by Alberto Pratoneri for his chapel in San Prospero, the most important church in Reggio, on 24 October 1522 for 208 lire in old Reggio coin; but probably not delivered until 1530, when building work on the chapel, dedicated to the Nativity of Our Lord, was completed. It was carried off by Francesco I d'Este, Duke of Modena, in 1640 and secretly replaced by a copy, the discovery of which caused a riot in Reggio. The original frame, with Boulanger's copy, is still in situ. Sold to Augustus III in 1745-6. There is a beautiful preliminary sketch for the altarpiece, drawn in red chalk heightened in white, in the Fitzwilliam Museum at Cambridge.
‘Madonna of Saint George’. Wood, 285 x 190.
The Madonna and Child are enthroned beneath an arch, which has a cherub's head in the centre and two sculptured angels holding garlands at the sides. Four saints group around them: St George (his left foot on a huge dragon’s head), a boyish John the Baptist (gesturing towards the Christ Child), Geminianus (who presents a model of Modena Cathedral) and the Dominican Peter Martyr (a knife in his head). In the foreground, putti play with St George’s helmet and sword. Correggio’s last altarpiece, painted around 1530-32 for the Oratory of the Confraternity of San Pietro Martire at Modena. Acquired in 1649 by Francesco I d'Este, Duke of Modena, who commissioned Guercino's Virgin and Child with Four Saints (now in the Louvre) to replace it. Sold to Augustus III in 1745-6.
Virgin in Glory with Angels. Wood, 20 x 16.
The angel on the left plays a lyre, that on the right a viol. Correggio’s smallest picture. First recorded, without attribution, in the 1675 inventory of Leopoldo de’ Medici’s collection. Catalogued as by Titian throughout the nineteenth century, but recognised as an early Correggio by Giovanni Morelli (1886). Usually dated between 1510 and 1515.
Rest on the Fight into Egypt. Canvas, 129 x 106.
St Joseph, on the left, is pulling down the branch of a date palm. St Francis kneels on the right. From the family chapel of Francesco Munari in the church of San Francesco at Correggio. On 17 March 1520, just before his death, Munari made a will leaving 25 ducats for the adornment of the chapel, which was dedicated to the Immaculate Conception. St Francis is presumably included in the picture either because he was the donor’s name saint or because the church is dedicated to him. Removed from the chapel in 1638 by Francesco I d’Este and replaced by a copy by Jean Boulanger (now in the Correggio Museum). Sent to Florence in 1649 in exchange for the Sacrifice of Isaac by Andrea del Sarto (now in Dresden).
Virgin adoring the Child. Canvas, 81 x 67.
Bright light emanates from the Child, illuminating the Virgin who kneels in adoration. The saddle in the foreground and the palm tree in the distance allude to the Flight into Egypt. This well-known picture, often reproduced for Christmas cards, probably dates from the mid-1520s. It was presented to Cosimo II de’ Medici by his brother-in-law Ferdinando Gonzaga, Duke of Mantua, in 1617, and was placed in the Tribuna, where it remained until the end of the nineteenth century. It was seen there by Henrietta Stackpole, the American journalist in the Henry James novel Portrait of a Lady (1881), who thought it 'the most beautiful picture in the world'.
London. National Gallery.
‘The School of Love’. Canvas, 155 x 92.
Mercury, in winged cap and sandals, gives a reading lesson to Cupid (or possibly Anteros, Cupid's brother and god of requited love). Venus, Cupid’s mother, is shown, unusually, with wings. She stands in a pose recalling antique statues of the Venus Pudica and gestures towards her child. The title ‘School of Love’ is not recorded before the eighteenth century. The picture and its probable companion, the so-called 'Antiope' in the Louvre, are unlikely to refer to particular myths and may be allegories of contrasting forms of love. (Miniature watercolour copies made in England by Peter Oliver in 1633-34 were called Venerie Coeleste and Venerie Mundano, or 'Celestial Love' and 'Earthly Love'.) The two picture probably date from the mid-1520s. They are recorded together in the Gonzaga collection in 1627, and it used to be thought that they were painted for the Mantuan court. However, the original patron is now believed to have been Count Nicola Maffei of Mantua, a member of the Gonzaga circle and noted collector of antiques and paintings. The two works entered Charles I’s collection with the Gonzaga pictures, but were separated during the Commonwealth, when one went to Spain and the other to France. The 'School of Love' was confiscated by Joachim Murat (then military commandant of Madrid) in 1808, and sold by his wife to the Marquess of Londonderry. Bought by the National Gallery, together with the Ecce Homo, in 1834 for £11,500. The picture is somewhat worn and restored, and has been cut down (most obviously at the right edge, where Mercury's knee is truncated).
Ecce Homo. Wood, 99 x 80.
On the left, the Virgin sinks into the arms of Mary Magdalene (or St John); Pilate, gesturing impotently, stands behind; and to the right is a Roman solder. The composition was possibly inspired by Mantegna’s picture of about 1500 in the Jacquemart-André Museum, Paris. Correggio’s picture was probably painted in the 1520s. Agostino Carracci’s engraving of 1587 states that it was in the Prati collection at Parma. It was later owned by the Colonna family in Rome and by Ferdinand IV of Naples. It was taken by Madame Murat when she fled from Naples in 1815, and sold by her to the Marquess of Londonderry.
‘Madonna of the Basket’. Wood, 33 x 25.
The Child wriggles in the Virgin's lap, as she tries on him the jacket she has just made. In the left foreground, the Virgin’s work-basket with scissors and a ball of wool. Joseph is the carpenter in the background. This beautiful, and exceptionally well- preserved, little work is probably the picture described by Vasari in the possession of Cavaliere Francesco Boiardo of Parma, son of the poet Andrea. Next recorded in the 1666 inventory of the Alcázar in Madrid, and acquired by the English painter and dealer George Augustus Wallis during the upheavals of the Peninsular War. Bought by the National Gallery in 1825 for £3,800.
Christ taking leave of His Mother. Canvas, 87 x 77.
This apocryphal subject was very rare in Italian painting but more common in Northern Europe. Regarded as a very or fairly early work (1512-18). It is perhaps Correggio’s earliest work on canvas, and the forms are rather blurred and the landscape hazy. First mentioned in 1786 in the possession of a certain Signor Rossi in Milan. Presented to the National Gallery by Lord Duveen in 1927.
Mary Magdalene. Canvas, 38 x 30.
The cross-legged pose of the nearly naked saint, leaning on a large book and cradling her jar of ointment, may have been taken from a Roman sarcophagus. The best of several versions: Roberto Longhi (Paragone (1958)) thought it only a copy, other critics have expressed uncertainty, but most have accepted it as Correggio’s original. (A pentimento in the left angle has been cited as evidence against the view that it is a copy.) Probably comparatively early (around 1518-19?). Its provenance has been traced back only to 1903, when it was sold in Paris. Bequeathed by George Salting in 1910.
Heads of Angels. Fresco fragments, 36/45/37 x 37/61/33.
Three fragments of the fresco painted in about 1522 in the apse of San Giovanni Evangelista in Parma. The fresco was destroyed in 1587-88 when the choir was enlarged. Other surviving fragments are in the Parma Gallery (the central section representing the Coronation of the Virgin) and at Boston (another angel head). (An angel head at Glasgow is now thought to be a forgery.) Two of the National Gallery’s fragments were bequeathed in 1924 with the collection of the industrialist Ludwig Mond and the third was presented in 1925 by Sir Robert Witt.
London. Hampton Court.
Holy Family with St Jerome. Wood, 67 x 52.
The figure on the left has been alternatively identified as St James. Charles I’s brand is on the back of the picture, which is probably the ‘Madonna, Christ and Jerome by Correggio’ included in the Commonwealth Sale of November 1649. A relatively early work (1515-19). Correggio seems to have reused his cartoons: the Child is the same as in the Virgin and Child with the Infant St John in the Prado, while the Virgin is the same as in another Holy Family at Orléans.
Saint Catherine Reading. Canvas, 64 x 52.
The reading saint is identified by the broken wheel on which she leans and her martyr’s palm. The attribution was doubted by Cecil Gould (who judged the picture either a damaged studio work or a later pastiche), but has been accepted by almost all other critics. Probably one of Correggio’s last works. In the royal collection since the reign of James II.
London. Apsley House.
Agony in the Garden. Wood, 37 x 40.
This famous panel probably dates from the 1520s. It is Identified with the ‘small picture, about a foot square, with several little figures, showing Christ in the Garden’ noted by Vasari in Reggio and praised enthusiastically by him as ‘the most rare and beautiful of all Correggio’s works’. Its subsequent history can be traced with reasonable certainty. According to Lomazzo (1590), it was given by Correggio to an apothecary in payment of a small debt of 4 or 5 scudi but was then sold for 400-500 scudi to Count Pirro Visconti of Milan. It was bought in the 1650s by the Marquis of Caracena, the Spanish Governor of Milan, from a descendant of Count Pirro for 750 doppie and by 1666 had entered the collection of Philip IV of Spain. It was among the pictures discovered in Joseph Bonaparte’s carriage after the Battle of Vitoria and returned by the Duke of Wellington to the Spanish king (Ferdinand VII), who gave them back to the Duke as a present. The right side of the panel is much damaged. (It is said to have been scorched by a lamp.) The appearance of this part of the picture was transformed by cleaning in 1949-50. It was previously so dark that the sleeping apostles (Peter, James and John) were indecipherable. Tiny figures of Judas and Roman soldiers were found to be later additions and removed. An old copy in the National Gallery gives an idea of the original appearance of the landscape on the right.
Los Angeles. J. P. Getty Museum.
Head of Christ. Wood, 28 x 23.
This small panel depicts the Vera icon – the veil of St Veronica which was miraculously imprinted with Christ’s features during the Passion. A late work, probably dating after 1530. It might have been painted for a patron called Veronica – possibly Veronica Gambara, wife of Conte Gilberto of Correggio. It is possibly the ‘Correggio Veronica’ listed in the inventory drawn up in Amsterdam in 1655 of the estate of Aletheia, Countess of Arundel. It was later in France (the collection of Monsieur de Sereville), and was bought by Viscount Gage in 1812. Until 1996 it was at Firle Place in Sussex.
‘Noli me Tangere’. Wood (transferred to canvas), 130 x 103.
One of the most highly finished of Correggio’s pictures, the background trees and foreground details – plants, straw hat and garden tools – being rendered with meticulous care. Perhaps originally a small altarpiece in a church. Probably the picture (‘a very beautiful thing’) seen by Vasari in the house of the Ercolani family at Bologna (who also owned Raphael’s Vision of Ezekiel). It is believed to have been in the collection of Charles I, and to have been acquired at the Commonwealth Sale by the Duke of Medina de las Torres, who presented it to Philip IV of Spain.
Virgin and Child with the Infant St John. Wood, 48 x 37.
The Child’s outstretched arms, as if he is about to embrace the infant St John, may be intended to evoke the Crucifixion. An early, rather Leonardesque work (middle to late 1510s). First recorded in 1746 in the collection of Elisabetta Farnese, queen consort of Philip V of Spain, at the palace of La Granja.
Madrid. Real Accademia de Belles Artes de San Fernando.
Saint Jerome. Wood, 64 x 51.
This small devotional panel is an early work (1515-20), showing the influence of Leonardo. It has a Mantuan provenance, and was acquired by Charles I with the Gonzaga collection. It is clearly identifiable in the 1639 inventory of the royal collection ('St Jeronimus leaning uppon his right arme and with his left houlding a dead scull uppon his booke saide to be of Corigio'). It was bought for £40 at the Commonwealth Sale by Alonso de Cárdenas, the Spanish ambassador. By the early nineteenth century it had acquired an attribution to Sebastiano del Piombo. It was rediscovered as an early work of Correggio by Tancred Borenius, who published a note on it in the November 1928 Burlington Magazine.
Madrid. Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection.
Portrait of a Man. Canvas (transferred?), 55 x 40.
The upper part of the cap and costume appear to be later additions. Once in the collection of Prince Zampieri in Bologna and later that of Consul von Weber of Hamburg; acquired by Baron Thyssen by 1930. The attribution to Correggio dates back at least to the nineteenth century, and is supported by some, but not all, modern critics. There have been other attributions to Giulio Campi (Berenson), Lorenzo Lotto (Gould) and even El Greco.
Four Evangelists. Frescoes.
The frescoes are in the pendentives of the dome of Andrea Mantegna’s memorial chapel (first on the left). They are ascribed to Correggio by Ippolito Donesmondi in his Dell’Istoria ecclesiastica di Mantova of 1612-16. If by Correggio (which is not unanimously accepted), they would be perhaps his earliest surviving works, painted in about 1507 when he was still in his teens.
Mantua. Museo Diocesano.
Entombment; Holy Family. Detached frescoes, 150 in dia.
These badly damaged frescoed roundels are from the atrium of Sant’Andrea, where they were ascribed to Correggio by Donesmondi (1612-16). They were rediscovered in 1914-15, detached in 1961 and subsequently restored. The sinopia of the Entombment is also preserved in the museum. Dated very early (before 1510-11) by most modern critics. The Pierpont Library, New York, has a cartoon, vigorously drawn in heavy charcoal, for the head of the grief-stricken Magdalen in the Entombment.
Melbourne. National Gallery of Victoria.
Madonna and Child with Infant St John. Wood, 45 x 36.
This well-preserved little panel has come to light only recently. Previously in a private collection in Switzerland, it was acquired by the Victoria museum at Sotheby’s in July 2012 for $5.2 million. Early (perhaps 1514-15). The museum has had the picture cleaned, removing darkened varnish and some old repaint, and has replaced the nineteenth-century frame with a Renaissance tabernacle one.
Nativity. Wood, 79 x 100.
The Christ Child, lying on a white sheet upon a bed of straw, is adored by the Virgin and by her cousin St Elizabeth holding the infant Baptist. Two shepherds, accompanied by an angel, watch from a respectful distance behind a wicker fence. Joseph slumbers in the doorway on the right, using a saddle as a pillow, and two child angels hover overhead swinging a thurible on a chain. Early (perhaps 1512-14); the toothless St Elizabeth is especially Mantegnesque. Possibly the ‘Nativity of Christ in Correggio’s first manner’ recorded in 1633 in the Ludovisi collection in Rome. In the nineteenth century, it was ascribed to the school of Dosso Dossi and to Savoldo. The attribution to Correggio was made by Jean Paul Richter, a former owner, in 1883. Richter sold the picture to the Milanese textile industrialist Benigno Crespi, whose collection was auctioned in Paris in 1913.
Adoration of the Magi. Wood, 108 x 84.
Caspar, the oldest Magus, has removed his turban and kneels to receive the Christ Child's blessing. He is followed by Melchior, who bows as he approaches the Holy Family, and by Balthasar, an exoitically dressed young African. The two men seated on the steps with a greyhound are dressed as German or Swiss mercenary soldiers (Landsknecht). The ivy, climbing up the wall behind the Virgin, is thought to represent Eternal Life. Fairly early (1514-18). Ascribed to Scarsellino (a minor late sixteenth-century artist from Ferrara) until the 1890s, when it was recognised as a Correggio by the young Bernard Berenson. Among the pictures bequeathed to the city of Milan by Cardinal Cesare Monti in 1650. Transferred to the Brera from the archbishop’s palace in 1895.
Milan. Castello Sforzesco.
Madonna and Child with the Infant St John. Canvas (transferred), 68 x 49.
The Christ Child links arms with St John, who holds up a crucifix, symbol of Christ's future sacrifice. An early work, known as the ‘Madonna Bolognini Attendolo’ after its previous owner. The Madonna is distinctly Leonardesque, as is the misty, mountainous landscape. The colour appears to have been dulled by the transfer from panel to canvas. There is a rather similar (probably even earlier) picture in the Chicago Art Institute. Acquired (as a work of Leonardo's Lombard follower Cesare da Sesto) in 1844 by Pio Innocenzo Attendolo Bolognini, whose brother Gian Giacomo bequeathed it to the City of Milan in 1865. The attribution to Correggio was published in Julius Meyer's 1871 German monograph.
Portrait of a Man (Giulio Zandemaria?). Canvas, 60 x 43.
The running deer in the woodland on the right may be of symbolic or heraldic significance. Another, more romantic suggestion is that the young man is reading Petrarch and the deer is a reference to Sonnet 190 ('A white doe on the green grass appeared to me') or to Sonnet 319 ('These days of mine, faster than a hind'). This is one of only three or four portraits attributed to Correggio. The attribution was made by Roberto Longhi shortly after the Second World War, and is not unanimously accepted. Cecil Gould believed that the portrait is an early work of Parmigianino. The portrait was bequeathed to the museum in 1945 by Contessa Lydia Caprara, widow of Conte Gian Giacomo Morando Bolognini.
Modena. Galleria Estense.
‘Madonna Campori’. Wood, 58 x 45.
An early work, about contemporary with La Zingarella in Naples or the Virgin and Child with the Infant St John in Madrid. From the chapel of the Castello di Soliera, near Mantua, where it was discovered in 1852 by the painter Vincenzo Rasori. Bequeathed to the Gallery in 1894 by the Marchese Giuseppe Campori. One of five paintings stolen from the Galleria Estense in 1992 by the Mala del Brenta (Venetian Mafia). Recovered in 1995.
Madonna and Child (‘La Zingarella’) . Wood, 47 x 37.
The Virgin is seated on the ground, her hair bound with a scarf. The picture was already known as La Zingarella (‘the Gipsy Girl’) as early as 1607, when it was left by Ranuccio Farnese to his sister Margherita, a nun at the convent of San Paolo at Parma. When she died, the picture returned to the Farnese collection, which was transferred to Naples in 1734. It is a relatively early work. X-rays have shown that it was painted over a Christ carrying the Cross. Harsh restoration in the 1930s radically altered the appearance of the picture (removing a tree on the right, a putto overhead pulling down a palm branch and a white rabbit in the left foreground), and has left it much abraded.
Mystical Marriage of St Catherine. Wood, 28 x 24.
The youthful St Catherine, holding a palm frond and with the sword of her martyrdom lying on the ground beside her, kneels to take the ring from the Christ Child. This delightful little panel could date from the late 1510s or 1520s. It has been much copied and its authenticity has sometimes been doubted. (There was once an attribution to Annibale Carracci.) However, X-rays have confirmed that it is Correggio's original by revealing that it was painted over a Madonna in the artist's early style. The picture entered the Farnese collection in 1612 with property confiscated from the Countess Barbara Sanseverino after the failed 'conspiracy of the feudal lords' to assassinate Duke Ranuccio I. Transferred from Parma to Naples in 1734.
Saint Anthony Abbot. Wood, 48 x 38.
The tormented saint is identified by the tiny bell hanging from the handle of his stick. Discovered in about 1905 in the sacristy of the church of the Girolomini (San Filippo Neri) at Naples.
Saint Joseph and a Donor. Two canvases, each 170 x 65.
These two canvases, thinly painted in distemper, are in the form of doors. Inscribed with the date 6 July 1529. The traditional attribution to Correggio (recorded in early Farnese inventories) was revived by Ferdinando Bologna (1957), who tried to identify the donor, dressed as a pilgrim, as Count Guido da Correggio.
New York. Metropolitan Museum.
Four Saints. Canvas, 222 x 162.
From left to right: Peter (with keys), Martha (with dragon tied to her girdle), Mary Magdalene (with jar of ointment) and Leonard (with fetters). The wooded setting is probably expained by the legend that Mary Magdalene and her sister Martha lived in a forest after making their way to France. Probably the picture mentioned in the will, dated 15 December 1517, of a certain Melchiore Fassi, who bequeathed his estate to the church of San Quirino at Correggio on condition that a chapel should be built with an altarpiece representing these four saints. The chapel was probably never built, but Fassi had another altar in the church of Santa Maria della Misericordia in the town, and the picture is recorded there in the seventeenth century. It was gone by 1786, and in the early twentieth century it belonged to Lord Ashburton of Northington, Hampshire. It was acquired by the Metropolitan Museum in 1912.
Orléans. Musée des Beaux-Arts.
Holy Family. Wood, 63 x 53.
Probably slightly earlier than the version at Hampton Court, which reused the cartoon for the Virgin but substituted St Jerome (or James) for the infant St John. From the collection of Louis XV.
Mystical Marriage of Saint Catherine. Wood, 105 x 102.
On the right, a smiling Leonardesque St Sebastian holding an arrow. In the background, Catherine’s attempted martyrdom on the wheel (left) and her beheading (centre). This unusually large devotional panel (praised by Vasari as ‘a most divine work in which Our Lady holds the Child, who marries St Catherine, attended by St Sebastian’) was painted for Francesco Grillenzoni, who was a member of the confraternity of St Sebastian at Modena. Presented by Cardinal Antonio Barberini to Cardinal Mazarin. Louis XIV acquired it from Mazarin’s heirs, who had valued it at 15,000 francs.
Venus and Cupid with a Satyr (‘Jupiter and Antiope’). Canvas, 190 x 124.
Popularly, but probably wrongly, called ‘Jupiter and Antiope’. When first recorded in an inventory of 1589 of the collection of Count Nicola Maffei’s grandson in Mantua, the subject is described as ‘Venus and Cupid who are asleep with a Satyr who uncovers [them]’. The subject was perhaps inspired by a woodcut illustration, depicting a lustful satyr unveiling a sleeping nymph, in Francesco Colonna's esoteric romance Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, printed in Venice in 1499. Titian's Venus of Pardo (also in the Louvre) visits similar territory. The School of Love (London National Gallery) is recorded with the 'Antiope' in the Maffei collection, and the two pictures are usually considered pendants, although they are now different sizes. They probably date from the mid-1520s. They were among the pictures sold by Vincenzo II Gonzaga to Charles I, and the 'Antiope' was valued at the very high price of £1,000 in the Commonwealth Sale of 1649. It was acquired by Everhard Jabach, the German banker and collector, who sold it to Cardinal Mazarin for 25,000 francs. It was bought by Louis XIV from the cardinal’s heirs in 1661. It was badly restored in 1793. (The painter Jacques Louis David complained: 'the glazes and halftones, in a word all that specially characterizes Correggio, have disappeared'.) A sensual red chalk study for the sleeping Venus is preserved in the Royal Library at Windsor Castle.
Allegory of Virtue. Canvas, 141 x 86.
Minevra is crowned with laurel and holds a broken spear. The woman on the left, holding a sword and sitting on a lionskin, personifies the four cardinal virtues (Justice, Prudence, Temperance and Fortitude). The woman on the right, measuring with dividers on a globe, may represent Science or Astronomy. There is another, unfinished, version in the Doria-Pamphilj Gallery, Rome, which shows Minevra naked.
Allegory of Vice. Canvas, 141 x 86.
A naked bearded man (clearly sexually aroused under his drapery) is tormented by three naked women, their hair entwined with snakes. The vine winding around the tree may allude to man as prisoner of his desires, while the grinning boy holding the bunch of grapes in the foreground probably warns of the evils of drink. An exquisite red chalk drawing in the British Museum omits the grinning boy but is otherwise very close to the finished painting. The two Allegories were painted to hang on either side of the door of Isabella d’Este’s studiolo in the Palazzo Ducale in Mantua. They were executed in tempera rather than oil to fit in with the work of Mantegna, Perugino and Costa which already decorated the walls. They are very late works (about 1532-34). The pair was acquired with the Gonzaga collection by Charles I, and valued at £1,000 in the Commonwealth Sale. Like the Jupiter and Antiope, they were bought by Jabach, and later belonged to Mazarin and Louis XIV. They owe their current titles (which hardly do justice to the complexity of the subjects) to engravings made in 1677 by François Félibien.
Parma. Galleria Nazionale.
Madonna of Saint Jerome ('Il Giorno'). Wood, 208 x 141.
St Jerome, accompanied by his lion, stands on the left. He is attended by an angel, who displays the saint's Latin translation of the Bible (the Vulgate) to the Christ Child. Mary Magdalene kneels on the right, bending forward to rest her head against the Child. She is attended by an angel holding her jar of ointment. Nicknamed by the eighteenth century ‘Il Giorno’ (‘The Day’) in contradistinction to the Nativity at Dresden (‘La Notte’). From the church of Sant'Antonio Abbate at Parma. According to a church record (now lost but published in a late eighteenth-century history), it was commissioned in 1523 by Donna Briseide Colla, widow of Ottaviano Bergonzi (a prominent citizen of Parma who had served on the town council). Correggio is said to have been paid 400 imperial lire, and given a bonus of two loads of wood, several bushels of wheat and a pig. The picture may not have been completed until 1527-8. Vasari praised it for 'its astonishing and beautiful colouring', and its fame was spread by a much-copied engraving made in 1586 by Agostino Carracci. In the eighteenth century, Algarotti called it 'perhaps the most beautiful painting that ever came from human hand'. The altarpiece was taken to Parma Cathedral for safekeeping in 1749, following a rumour that it was about to be sold to Augustus III of Saxony (who had already acquired La Notte and three other altarpieces by Correggio). It was bought in 1765 for 1,750 zecchini by Philip, Duke of Parma, and hung for a time in the Ducal Palace at Colorno. It was plundered by the French in 1796, but restored to Parma in 1816.
‘Madonna della Scodella’. Wood, 217 x 137.
The picture takes its name from the feeding bowl in the Virgin’s hand. The subject is the Rest on the Flight into Egypt (or perhaps rather, given the age of the Christ Child, the Rest on the Return). According to a legend in an apocryphal gospel, a palm tree bent down its branches to offer fruit to the hungry family, while the ground opened up to reveal a fresh spring. Joseph gathers dates from the palm and passes them to the Child, and the Virgin gathers water in her bowl. Painted in 1530 (according to an inscription on the frame) for the Society of St Joseph, whose chapel (first on the left) was in the church of San Sepolcro in Parma. Like the Madonna of St Jerome, it was taken to Paris in 1796, and placed in the Gallery on its return in 1816. The original classical frame, with fluted Ionic columns, was carved by Marcantonio Zucchi (who made the choir stalls with intarsia decoration for the churches of San Quintino and San Giovanni Evangelista at Parma). The Madonna della Scodella influenced many subsequent paintings of the Rest on the Flight into Egypt, including Barocci's popular picture of the early 1570s (versions at the Vatican and in Piobbico, near Urbino).
Martyrdom of St Placidus and St Flavia. Canvas, 159 x 181.
The gory subject is unusual. St Placidus, a sixth-century follower of St Benedict, and his sister Flavia were allegedly martyred by Saracen pirates at Messina, along with their two younger brothers Eutichius and Victorinus (whose bodies and severed heads are visible at the right edge of the picture). Commissioned, together with the Lamentation (also in the Gallery), by Placido del Bono, confessor of Pope Paul III, for his family chapel in San Giovanni Evangelista in Parma.
Lamentation. Canvas, 157 x 182.
The mourners are the Virgin Mary (who supports the head of the dead Christ in her lap), John the Evangelist (who comforts her), Mary Magdalene (who grieves at Christ's feet) and another Mary (at the left edge). Nicodemus, holding pincers and nails, descends the ladder in the background. This canvas hung opposite the Martyrdom of St Placidus and St Flavia, on the left wall of the Del Bono Chapel. The two horizontal pictures were designed to be seen from an angle. They were probably painted in about 1524. They were taken to Paris in 1796 and entered the Gallery in 1816.
‘Madonna della Scala’. Fresco, 196 x 142.
The seated Madonna was originally represented full-length within an arched portal, a bishop’s mitre at her feet. The fresco was painted on the inner façade of the Porta San Michele (the eastern gateway of Parma). Vasari says that it won ‘enthusiastic praise, even from passing strangers who have seen nothing else of his’. The fresco was removed and installed in a nearby chapel in 1545, when the city walls were enlarged. Transferred to the Accademia di Belle Arti in 1812, when the chapel was demolished. Restored and transferred to canvas in 1948.
Annunciation. Fresco, 115 x 157.
The very damaged fresco was painted for the church of the Annunziata at Parma. Vasari describes how, when the church was demolished in 1546, the Franciscan friars ‘had the surviving wall fortified with timber bound with iron and kept the picture intact by cutting round it little by little’. A squared drawing for the fresco is in the Metropolitan Museum, New York.
Coronation of the Virgin. Fresco, 215 x 330.
The central part of the fresco painted by Correggio in the apse of San Giovanni Evangelista. The fresco was paid for in 1522. It was removed in 1587-88 when the choir was enlarged. Other fragments (angel heads) are in London and Boston. There is a faithful copy of the whole composition by the Bolognese painter Cesare Aretusi in the new apse of the church.
Parma. Former Convent of San Paolo.
Ceiling Frescoes: Diana and Putti.
The earliest of Correggio’s great fresco decorations. Painted probably in 1518 for the Abbess Donna Giovanna da Piacenza, whose coat of arms of three crescents is prominently displayed in the centre of the ceiling. The vault of the little circular dining room is represented as a trellised arbour. Each of sixteen compartments has an oval opening in which putti with the attributes of Diana (masks, bows and arrows, dogs, horns and stags heads) play against a blue sky. Below are lunettes filled with allegorical subjects in monochrome, many based on antique Roman coins. On the chimneypiece: Diana in her chariot. The imposition of a clausura in 1524, after Abbess Giovanna’s death, made the frescoes inaccessible to subsequent generations, and Vasari fails even to mention them.
Parma. San Giovanni Evangelista.
Dome: Vision of St John at Patmos. Fresco, 940 x 875.
The huge, radiant fresco represents the Last Vision of St John (described in Revelation, 1:7). The aged saint, with long white hair and white beard, crouches close to the cornice of the dome, and is barely visible from the apse of the church. He gazes up in awe at the Risen Christ – a very foreshortened figure – ascending through the clouds; almost naked apostles recline in a ring. Evangelists and Doctors of the Church, engaged in theological debate, fill the pendentives beneath. St Matthew is paired with St Jerome, St Mark with St Ambrose, St Luke with St Gregory, and St John with St Augustine. Correggio probably started work on the dome in 1520 (the first recorded payment was made on 6 July) and, after an interruption caused by the French siege of Parma the following year, the fresco was probably completed in 1522 or 1523. It is the most heroic and Michelangelesque of Correggio’s three great dome decorations. Restored in 1988-90.
North transept. Saint John. Fresco, 79 x 160.
The youthful Evangelist, seated on the ground, writes his Gospel, the eagle perched by his feet. Painted for the lunette above the door to the convent.
The long frieze, representing scenes of Old Testament and pagan sacrifice, was commissioned on 1 November 1522 and paid for on 23 January 1524. A source (Resta) of 1707 states that it was executed by assistants (Francesco Maria Rondani and a certain Torelli or Tonelli) from Correggio’s drawings; but, after cleaning, some recent critics have accepted it as at least partly autograph.
On the evidence of a drawing at Chatsworth, the cross-vaults of one bay of the choir were also decorated to Correggio’s design, with grotesques in grisaille on a blue background.
Correggio’s Coronation of the Virgin in the apse of the church was destroyed when the apse was lengthened (fragments in the Parma Gallery, London and elsewhere). The replica by Cesare Aretusi in the new vault is said to have been based on copies of Correggio’s original made by Annibale and Agostino Carracci.
Dome: Assumption of the Virgin. Fresco, 1093 x 1195.
The last and most daring of Correggio’s illusionistic dome decorations. The Virgin soars upwards, supported by a mass of figures, angels and spirits, forming concentric circles. Adam appears on one side of her, touching his breast to acknowledge his guilt, and Eve appears on the other side, holding the apple. A youthful, beardless Christ, his white robes riding up, descends to welcome his mother. Below, the apostles stand upon the cornice at the base of the dome. In the pendentives beneath the dome, four saints are seated in what appear to be enormous scallop shells. These are the protectors of Parma: St John the Baptist (with lamb), St Hilary of Poitiers (in a yellow robe), St Joseph (with staff) and St Bernardo degli Uberti (on a cloud supported by angels). Correggio signed the commission to fresco the dome on 3 November 1522. He was to be paid 1000 ducats for the painting and another 100 for the decorative portions. Most of the work seems to have been done between 1526 and 1530, when payments from the Fabbricieri (administrators of the building funds) are recorded. The fresco does not seem to have been well received at the time: a canon of the cathedral is famously said to have likened it to ‘a stew of frogs’ legs’. Controversially restored in the 1980s, it has lost some of its delicacy of modelling and radiance of colour.
Pavia. Museo Civico Malaspina.
Holy Family with Saints Elizabeth and John. Wood, 27 x 21.
Bequeathed to the Pavia Museum by Marchese Luigi Malaspina in 1833. Previously ascribed to Francia, it was attributed to Correggio as an early work by Morelli (1880). The small panel is in poor condition and some recent critics have judged it the work of a follower.
Philadelphia. Museum of Art (J. G. Johnson Collection).
Madonna and Child with Saints Elizabeth and John. Wood, 61 x 48.
Poorly preserved: before a recent restoration the Virgin’s head was repainted. The Christ Child is probably reaching out to receive from the infant Baptist a reed cross that has now been effaced. An early work; the St Elizabeth is particularly Mantegnesque. Formerly in Prince Leopold Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen’s collection; acquired by Johnson in 1914.
Rome. Vatican Pinacoteca.
Christ in Glory. Canvas, 105 x 98.
The upper part of an altarpiece from the church of Santa Maria della Misericordia at Correggio. A fifteenth-century statue (recently attributed to Desiderio da Settignano) was in the centre of the altarpiece and paintings by Correggio of St John the Baptist and St Bartholomew were at the sides. Correggio’s three canvases were painted around the mid-1520s. They were sold in 1613 to Giovanni Siro, Prince and then Count of Correggio. After Siro was exiled from Correggio, they passed into the hands of Camillo II Gonzaga, Lord of Novellara. The Christ in Glory was later in the collections of the painter Niccolò Renieri at Venice and of the politican Ferdinando Marescalchi at Bologna. It was acquired by the Vatican in 1832. The two side canvases are known only through copies. (An early seventeenth-cantury one of the St John the Baptist is in the Royal Collection at Windsor.) The Vatican Christ in Glory was long supposed to be an old copy too (possibly by Annibale Carracci). However, the underdrawing (revealed by research published in 2011) leaves little doubt that it is the original.
Rome. Galleria Borghese.
Danaë. Canvas, 161 x 193.
The subject, taken from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, was rare when Correggio painted it in about 1530-32 (Titian’s famous versions of it are fifteen or twenty years later). Jupiter, disguised as a cloud, hovers over the bed. Cupid, sitting on the foot of the bed, removes the cover from Danaë with one hand and tests the air for rain with the other. In the bottom right-hand corner, two putti test the two arrows of gold and lead on a stone (‘one shaft that arouses love and one that routs it’). Painted for Duke Federico II of Mantua, it was taken to Spain by Charles V and probably given by Philip II to Pompeo Leoni (son of the sculptor Leone Leoni of Milan). Bought by Emperor Rudolph II in 1601 and plundered by Swedish troops from Prague in 1648. Sold with the Orléans collection in London in 1798 and bought by Prince Camillo Borghese in Paris in 1827. Unsurprisingly, given all its travels, the picture is much damaged and restored.
Rome. Galleria Doria-Pamphilj.
Allegory of Virtue. Canvas, 150 x 86.
An unfinished version of the picture painted for Isabella d’Este’s studiolo in the Palazzo Ducale in Mantua and now in the Louvre. It is nearly identical in composition, except that the central figure (Minevra) is draped and wears a breastplate in the finished version. It is possible that Correggio abandoned this version because he was unhappy with the technique: it is executed in distemper (the medium used for other paintings in Isabella d’Este’s studiolo), whereas the finished version in the Louvre is painted in tempera. Recorded, with an attribution to Correggio, in the Aldobrandini inventory of 1603.
St Petersburg. Hermitage.
Portrait of a Woman. Canvas, 103 x 88.
Unusually large for a Renaissance portrait. Previously ascribed to Lorenzo Lotto, Giulio Campi and Moretto da Brescia, it was recognised as Correggio’s only in 1958, when Roberto Longhi read the signature – ANTON. LAET. on the tree truck on the left – as a Latinised version of the artist’s name. It is Correggio’s only signed portrait. The Greek inscription on the cup is a line of Homer’s Odyssey describing Helen handing Telemachus a wine cup as a remedy for his grief. The sitter is dressed in the scapular and girdle of a Franciscan tertiary. She has been identified either as Veronica Gambara (wife of Conte Gilberto, governor of Correggio) who was widowed in 1518 or Ginevra Ragone (wife of Giangaleazzo da Correggio) who was widowed in 1517. Transferred to the Hermitage in 1925 from the Yusupov Palace in St Petersburg.
Strasbourg. Musée des Beaux-Arts.
Judith. Wood, 27 x 20.
Judith's maid puts the severed head of the Assyrian general Holofernes into her bag of meat (Judith: xiii, 10). This tiny, dramatic night scene is a very early work, and was doubtless influenced by the many versions of this subject by Mantegna and his followers. Bought for the Strasbourg Museum in 1892 by Wilhelm Bode from Charles Fairfax-Murray.
Vienna. Kunthistorisches Museum.
Rape of Ganymede. Canvas, 163 x 71.
Ganymede, a beautiful Trojan boy, was carried up to heaven by the gods to be Jupiter's cupbearer. In a popular version of the myth, he was snatched up by Jupiter himself, disguised as an eagle, while tending sheep on the slopes of Mount Ida in Crete. Correggio shows Ganymede's sheep dog leaping up in a vain attempt to follow his master. The figure of Ganymede is an exact replica of one of the angels in the squinch depicting St Bernard Uberti in Parma Cathedral. Painted – along with the Jupiter and Io (also in Vienna), the Leda (Berlin and the Danaë (Borghese Gallery, Rome) – for Federico Gonzaga. (Jupiter was a mythical ancestor of the Gonzaga family.) In 1583 it was in the possession of the Spanish Secretary of State, Antonio Perez. It was acquired by Emperor Rudolph II in 1603-4.
Jupiter and Io. Canvas, 163 x 74.
When Jupiter seduced the nymph Io, he conjured up a cloud to conceal his lovemaking from his wife Juno (Ovid's Metamorphoses, Book 1). In Correggio's erotic depiction, the cloud envelopes Io, and only Jupiter's face, emerging to kiss the nymph, and his hand, reaching down to caress her naked flesh, are visible. No earlier paintings of the subject are known. Painted for Federico Gonzaga in about 1530-32 as one of the four canvases showing the amorous adventures of Jupiter. Later in the collections of Charles V in Spain and of the sculptor Leone Leoni in Milan, it was acquired by Rudolph II in 1601.
Virgin and Child. Wood, 66 x 55.
Early (dated ‘about 1517’ by Ekserdjian (1997)). The pose of the Virgin, looking downwards in full profile, is similar to that in the Brera Adoration of the Magi. In the right background, a landscape with a sleeping shepherd and a goat eating the leaves of a tree. Transferred to the Museum in 1928 from the Schloss Hellbrunn (near Salzburg) after the German art historian Hermann Voss had discovered it and attributed it to Correggio.
Washington. National Gallery.
Marriage of St Catherine with Three Saints. Wood, 28 x 22.
The tiny panel is composed like a miniature altarpiece. The Virgin and Child are enthroned between St Francis and St Dominic. St Anne stands behind the throne. The Child places the ring on the finger of the kneeling St Catherine of Alexandria. The saint's crown, sword and broken wheel lie on the steps in the foreground, and the fictive bronze relief on the pedestal of the throne seems to depict her martyrdom. From the Costabili collection at Ferrara, where it was ascribed to Raphael or Fra Bartolommeo. It was recognised by Giovanni Morelli as one of Correggio’s earliest works (about 1510?), showing the influence of Mantegna and Lorenzo Costa. Acquired by Samuel H. Kress in 1932 from Conte Contini Bonacossi, and bequeathed to the National Gallery in 1941.
The Redeemer. Wood, 43 x 33.
This Leonardesque panel, ascribed to Leonardo da Pistoia by Berenson (1932-36), was attributed to Correggio by Longhi (1958), and is now fully accepted as an early work (about 1515?). From the collection of Lord Kinnaird at Rossie Priory, Perthshire, Scotland. Acquired by Kress in 1957.
Virgin and Child (‘Barrymore Madonna’). Canvas, 56 x 41.
This type of half-length Madonna against a dark background derives from Mantegna; and opinion has been divided over whether the much-restored canvas is a very early work of Correggio (about 1508-10?), when he was working under Mantegna, or a late work of Mantega himself or another artist in his circle. Sometimes called the ‘Barrymore Madonna’ after its previous owner, Lord Barrymore of Marbury Hall, Northwick, Cheshire. Acquired by Kress in 1937.