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The Virgin Seated on Clouds Correggio


Correggio Correggio, ca. 1489 – Correggio, 1534

Date ca. 1522–1524
Object type drawing
Medium, technique red chalk on paper

262 × 183 mm

Inventory number 2101
Collection Prints and Drawings
On view This artwork is not on display

In the 1520s, a major artistic undertaking
in Parma was the interior
decoration of the newly constructed
Benedictine church of San Giovanni
Evangelista. Alongside Correggio, who
was residing for the most part in the
town, several ambitious local painters
of the younger generation also
received commissions: Michelangelo
Anselmi, Francesco Maria Rondani,
as well as Parmigianino.
Correggio was contracted to paint
the dome, the apse and the frieze of
the nave. He worked on the frescoes
for four years, between 1520 and
1524. The surviving records indicate
that Correggio first painted the dome
fresco of the Vision of St. John the
Evangelist. Only thereafter, around
1522, did he begin the Coronation
of the Virgin in the apse.
When the apse was enlarged in
1587, its wall painting was damaged
and only a few traces remained. It was
replaced by a copy of the Bolognese
painter Cesare Aretusi. In addition
to a fragment of the middle section of
the original painting (Parma, Galleria
Nazionale) and its sinopia (Parma,
Biblioteca Palatina), Correggio’s studies
allow us to form an impression of
the destroyed work. Correggio usually
made only a few drawings in preparation
of a wall painting. But the Coronation
of the Virgin appears to have
been an exception: nine preliminary sketches by the artist came down to
us, including the two in Budapest.
At first, Correggio experimented
with a dynamic formulation of the
theme. But in the course of making
sketches, he achieved a more static
and frontal formulation of the composition.
The drawing in the Boijmans
Museum, Rotterdam is the only sketch
in which the artist depicts both main
figures of the Coronation of the Virgin
(fig. 8). This is Correggio’s earliest
study for Christ and also the last of
three for the Virgin. Apart from a few
minor corrections, the Budapest study
for the Virgin corresponds with the
version in the fresco. However, the
Rotterdam Christ underwent significant
alterations before it acquired its
final form on the verso of the Budapest
sheet, the contours of which were reinforced
with pen.
Between 1521 and 1523, Parmigianino
also worked in this church, where
he decorated two chapels to the left
of the nave with wall paintings. It
is uncertain whether he became an
assistant to Correggio. Still, many of
Parmigianino’s drawings suggest that
he came into close contact with the
older master, who played an important
role in his artistic development.
This influence can be recognised in
early drawings and
paintings, and it became prominent
a decade later when the artist finally
returned to his native town. Thus,
it is not surprising that despite its
conservative composition, Correggio’s
Coronation of the Virgin served as a
model for Parmigianino’s wall painting
in the apse of Santa Maria della
Steccata, which he never began.

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