Correggio painted this altarpiece in the first years of his career for the oratory of Santa Maria della Misericordia in his hometown. His patron, Melchiore Fassi, requested the depiction of the four saints—Peter, with his keys; Martha, her dragon; Mary Magdalen, her pot of ointment; and Leonard, with his fetters. Each stands separately, absorbed in his or her own thoughts. They are set against a dense copse of trees, on one of which a woodpecker can be seen. Leonardo da Vinci, whose work in Milan the young Correggio admired, probably inspired the soft lighting across the figures.
One of Correggio’s most significant early works, this altarpiece was painted for a church in the artist’s hometown (from whence his name derives) to the east of Parma. It was commissioned by a local patron, Melchior Fassi, and hung in his chapel in the hospital church of Santa Maria Verberator, usually known as Santa Maria della Misericordia, until 1690. Unraveling the early history of the painting has been complicated by the fact that Fassi drew up three wills (1517, 1528, 1538) with diverse requests for burial rights, bequests, and altarpieces, all of them later than the probable date of this painting based on stylistic features. To further complicate matters, the wills involved five separate churches (for transcriptions, see Gould 1976, doc. 4, pp. 177–80). In the first two wills Fassi stated his intention to commission an altarpiece representing the same saints pictured here—Peter, Martha, Mary Magdalen, and Leonard. However, at the time of Fassi’s death he had given up on these more elaborate plans and decided to be buried at Santa Maria della Misericordia, where he had long had a chapel dedicated to Saint Martha. It thus seems likely—though unprovable—that the wills involved another altarpiece that was never executed and that he had commissioned Correggio’s painting earlier—probably around 1514—and installed it in his chapel at the Misericordia (on these complicated issues see especially Ekserdjian 1997). It must be more or less contemporary with another early altarpiece by Correggio, the Madonna and Child with Saints Francis, Anthony of Padua, Catherine of Siena, and John the Baptist (Gemäldegalerie, Dresden), which is documented to 1514–15.
Each of the saints represented must have had a meaning to Fassi or another member of his family, but the dedication of Saint Martha, Mary Magdalen’s sister, is particularly interesting. According to the Golden Legend, she, her sister, and their followers made their way to France and Martha dwelled in a deep forest, where she saved the populace from a dragon that she tamed by a sprinkle of holy water from her aspergillum and then attached to her girdle as we see in the painting. It is her story that provides the rationale for the deep forest with twisted tree trunks (with a bright red woodpecker in one of the branches) forming a backdrop to the gathering of saints, a remarkable scene probably inspired by Leonardo da Vinci’s work in Milan, which was also the inspiration for the Magdalen’s idealized beauty.
The painting belonged to the Ashburton family in England in the nineteenth century and the Museum first considered acquiring it in 1908, when Roger Fry wrote the following insightful description of it: "It is a great altarpiece, one of the largest he ever did. . . . The colour is extremely beautiful and the handling has all Correggio’s mystery and magic. . . . On the other hand, Correggio had here a problem which was not perfectly suited to his temperament, and a certain displeasure, which one experiences at first sight of the picture is, I think, due to that. He had to treat four saints in an altarpiece and was bound to keep something of a hieratic symmetry which was not natural to his personal method of conception. He has managed to solve it with extraordinary ingenuity so as to keep the hieratic symmetry and yet give to each figure a subtle movement in keeping with his more emotional feeling for character" (Bayer 2003).
[Andrea Bayer 2011]
the Fassi chapel, Oratorio of Santa Maria della Misericordia, Correggio (until 1782; church suppressed and painting acquired by Fabrizi); conte Vincenzo Fabrizi (1782–at least 1787); [Giovanni Antonio Armano, Bologna, in 1789; sold to Marescalchi]; conte Ferdinando Marescalchi, Bologna (by 1815–d. 1816; inv., ca. 1816–17, no. 286); Marescalchi family, Bologna (1816–at least 1821); Alexander Baring, 1st Baron Ashburton, Bath House, London (by 1838–d. 1848); the Barons Ashburton, The Grange, Alresford, Hampshire (1848–89); Francis Denzil Edward Baring, 5th Baron Ashburton, The Grange (1889–1907; sold to Agnew, Sulley, and Wertheimer); [Agnew, Sulley and Co., and Asher Wertheimer, London, 1907–12; sold to MMA]
Pinacoteca Nazionale di Bologna. "Nell'età di Correggio e dei Carracci: pittura in Emilia dei secoli XVI e XVII," September 10–November 10, 1986, no. 27.
Washington. National Gallery of Art. "The Age of Correggio and the Carracci: Emilian Painting of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries," December 19, 1986–February 16, 1987, no. 27.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Age of Correggio and the Carracci: Emilian Painting of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries," March 26–May 24, 1987, no. 27.
Rome. Galleria Borghese. "Correggio e l'antico," May 22–September 14, 2008, no. 4 (as "Quattro santi").
Parma. Galleria Nazionale et al.. "Correggio," September 20, 2008–January 25, 2009, no. II.31.
marginal note in copy of 1550 edition of Vasari's "Lives". n.d. [17th century] [Victor Emmanuel Library, Rome; see Ricci 1930], mentions an altarpiece by Correggio depicting Saints Peter, Leonard, Martha, and Mary Magdalen in the church of Santa Maria known as "li Bastardini," Correggio.
Inventory of the altars and respective altarpieces in the church of Santa Maria della Misericordia. ca. 1612 [Archivio della Curia Vescovile di Reggio, Correggio, Confraternite e chiese, fil. 91, 1612 ca.; excerpt published in Monducci 2004, p. 64], lists it as an altarpiece depicting Saints Martha, Peter, Leonard, and Mary Magdalen, without naming the artist.
Lucio Zuccardi. Cronaca. [before 1690] [Biblioteca Municipale di Reggio Emilia; see Pungileoni 1818, Arb 1962, and Gould 1976], discussing the paintings in Santa Maria della Misericordia, writes that the Fassi altarpiece is by Correggio; a marginal note adds that it has been ruined because of fears that it would be removed from the church.
Pastoral visit. August 25, 1704 [excerpt published in Monducci 2004, p. 65], lists it in the oratorio of Santa Maria della Misericordia.
Sebastiano Resta. Correggio in Roma. [ca. 1709], f. 10v. [published in Popham 1958], mentions a work with four full-length figures made by Correggio for the Oratorio della Misericordia, Correggio, in about 1518, noting the influence of Raphael's "Saint Cecilia" (Pinacoteca Nazionale, Bologna), sent to Bologna in that year [sic].
Gerolamo Colleoni. Letter to consigliere D. Venanzio de-Pagave. June 26, 1776 [published in Pungileoni 1821], mentions a Saint Peter and other female saints in the church of Santa Maria, Correggio, as the only painting by the artist left in the town.
Inventory of the contents of the Oratorio of Santa Maria della Misericordia. September 27, 1782 [Archivio Opere Pie di Correggio, "Congregazione generale," "Atti di Protocollo," 1781–1784; excerpt published in Monducci 2004, pp. 65–66], made on the occasion of the suppression of the confraternity and the closing of its respective oratorio, includes this picture among seven altarpieces in the church.
Michele Antonioli. Letter to Girolamo Tiraboschi. June 6, 1785 [see Arb 1962], writes that there is no trace of the Saint Martha.
Girolamo Tiraboschi. Notizie de' pittori, scultori, incisori, e architetti natii degli stati del serenissimo signor Duca di Modena. Modena, 1786, pp. 44–45 [reprinted in Biblioteca modenese 6 (1786), pp. 256–57], mistakenly associates the picture cited by Resta (1709) as in the Misericordia with a copy in which Saint Ursula was substituted for the Magdalen [see Lanzi 1795–96].
Giovanni Antonio Armano. Letter to G. M. Sasso. July 25, 1789 [Biblioteca Seminario Patriarcale, Venice, mss. no. 652; see Gardner 1972], writing from Bologna, notes that the picture was then being cleaned.
Luigi Lanzi. Storia pittorica della Italia. Vol. 2, part 1, Bassano, 1795–96, pp. 297–98 [4th ed., 1822, vol. 4, pp. 61–62; English ed., 1828, vol. 4, pp. 89–91; German ed., 1831, vol. 2, pp. 304–5; new Italian ed., vol. 2, 1970, p. 228], states that the painting cited by Resta (1709) had been removed from the Misericordia and acquired by Armano, while a copy showing Saint Ursula instead of the Magdalen had replaced it; notes that the forms are more softly modelled than those of the Saint Francis altarpiece (1514–15; Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Dresden); mentions that many private homes in Correggio contain very old copies of the picture.
Giovanni de' Brignoli. Sopra un quadro di Antonio Allegri . . . Milan, 1815, pp. 24–25 n. 1, notes that two works by Correggio had been acquired from Armano by Marescalchi, one in the first manner and the other in the second manner.
Poggi. Letter to conte Marescalchi. March 25, 1815 [published in Finzi 1934].
G. Muñoz. Galleria del fù conte Ferdinando Marescalchi in Bologna, aggiuntevi alcune notizie di due quadri insigni di Antonio Allegri, detto il Correggio. [ca. 1816–17], no. 286 [Archiginnasio, Bologna, mss. Muñoz A. 2063; see Gardner 1972].
Luigi Pungileoni. Memorie istoriche di Antonio Allegri detto il Correggio. Vol. 1, Parma, 1817, pp. 59–64, believes that the original version, with the Magdalen, was probably commissioned by Melchiore Fassi in 1517; mentions two copies in Correggio, one in the Gerez collection, the other [probably the one described in Tiraboschi 1786 and Lanzi 1795–96] in San Francesco, with Saint Ursula holding a banner substituted for the Magdalen, and which he attributes to the seventeenth-century painter Giuseppe Orazio Capretti.
Percy Bysshe Shelley. Letter to Thomas Love Peacock. November 9, 1818 [published in "The Letters of Percy Bysshe Shelley," Roger Ingpen, ed., vol. 2, 1909, p. 637; and in "The Complete Works of Percy Bysshe Shelley," Roger Ingpen, ed., vol. 9, "Letters 1812–1818," 1926, p. 342], writing from Bologna, mentions having seen it in a private collection.
Luigi Pungileoni. Memorie istoriche di Antonio Allegri detto il Correggio. Vol. 2, Parma, 1818, pp. 90–95, transcribes parts of Fassi's wills and quotes other sources in connection with the picture ordered by Fassi.
Luigi Pungileoni. Memorie istoriche di Antonio Allegri detto il Correggio. Vol. 3, Parma, 1821, pp. 171, 201–2, lists "una santa Marta ed altri Santi" in the Marescalchi collection, Bologna; publishes Colleoni's letter of 1776 [see Ref.].
G[ustav]. F[riedrich]. Waagen. Works of Art and Artists in England. London, 1838, vol. 2, pp. 267–69, as in the collection of Lord Ashburton; notes that the attribution to Correggio is often questioned, but himself firmly believes it to be an early work by Correggio; identifies the saints as Peter, Margaret, Mary Magdalen, and Anthony of Padua; mistakenly states that it was formerly in the Ercolani (Hercolani) collection, Bologna.
G[ustav]. F[riedrich]. Waagen. Kunstwerke und Künstler in England und Paris. Vol. 2, Kunstwerke und Künstler in England. Berlin, 1838, pp. 80–82.
William Hazlitt. Criticisms on Art. London, 1844, appendix IV, no. 17, repeats the provenance from the Hercolani collection.
Ernst Joachim Förster. Handbuch für Reisende in Italien. 4th ed. Munich, 1848, p. 195 [see Zeri and Gardner 1986], notes that it was originally in the Misericordia, then in the collection of Armano, and presently in that of Lord Ashburton; dates it to the artist's twentieth year [i.e., 1509].
Franz Kugler. Handbuch der Kunstgeschichte. 2nd ed. Stuttgart, 1848, p. 746, relates it to the Dresden Saint Francis altarpiece.
Mrs. Jameson. Sacred and Legendary Art. London, 1848, vol. 1, p. xxx, notes that the presence of these four saints (whom she correctly identifies) indicates that the picture was destined for a charitable institution.
Vincenzo Rasori. "Due nuovi quadri del Correggio." Ghirlandina no. 2 (January 8, 1853), p. 5, as in the Marescalchi collection, Bologna; calls it one of Correggio's earliest works.
[Gustav Friedrich] Waagen. Treasures of Art in Great Britain. London, 1854, vol. 2, pp. 99–100, identifies it with the work painted by Correggio in 1517 for Tassi [sic, for Fassi].
W. Burger [Théophile Thoré]. Trésors d'art exposés à Manchester en 1857. Paris, 1857, p. 92 [reprinted as "Trésors d'art en Angleterre," Brussels, 1860, with same pagination], questions the attribution to Correggio, adding incorrectly that Waagen (1838) also doubts the attribution.
Giovanni Battista Cavalcaselle. Unpublished manuscript. 1865 [Biblioteca Marciana, Venice, 2033/12274/IV; see Gardner 1972 and Zeri and Gardner 1986], includes notes and several sketches of the painting after seeing it in the collection of Lord Ashburton in London.
Pietro Martini. Studi intorno il Correggio. Parma, 1865, pp. 64–65, 72 n. 8 [reprinted in "Il Correggio: studi," Parma, 1871, pp. 104–5, 120–21 n. 8], dates it 1517.
Julius Meyer. Correggio. Leipzig, 1871, pp. 101–3, 364–67, 395, 435, 458–59, nos. 44, 69–70, 80, lists the Misericordia, Marescalchi, and Ashburton paintings as three separate works, calling the latter two probably copies after the former; dates the Misericordia painting 1517 on p. 101 and 1518 on p. 364.
Ivan Lermolieff [Giovanni Morelli]. "Die Galerien Roms." Zeitschrift für bildende Kunst 10 (1875), p. 331, calls it an early work.
Julius Meyer. Antonio Allegri da Correggio. London, 1876, pp. 95–96, 299.
Jean-Paul Richter. "Un tableau de la jeunesse du Corrège." L'art 18 (1879), pp. 210–11, calls it an early work, painted about 1515, at the time of the "Christ Taking Leave of His Mother" (now in the National Gallery, London, no. 4255).
J[ean]. P[aul]. Richter in Robert Dohme. Kunst und Künstler. Vol. 2, part 3, Leipzig, 1879, pp. 10, 35–36 n. 7, tentatively identifies the Ashburton painting with the picture from the Misericordia.
Ivan Lermolieff [Giovanni Morelli]. Die Werke italienischer Meister in den Galerien von München, Dresden, und Berlin. Leipzig, 1880, p. 147 [English ed., London, 1883, p. 123], dates it before the Dresden Saint Francis altarpiece, about 1513–14, and notes the influence of Francia and Costa.
Quirino Bigi. Della vita e delle opere certe ed incerte di Antonio Allegri, detto il Correggio. Modena, 1880, p. 52, no. 14.
Giovanni Morelli. Letter. July 13, 1885 [published in "Italienische Malerei der Renaissance im Briefwechsel von Giovanni Morelli und Jean Paul Richter," Baden-Baden, 1960, p. 419].
Ivan Lermolieff [Giovanni Morelli]. Kunstkritische Studien über italienische Malerei. Vol. 1, Die Galerien Borghese und Doria Panfili in Rom. Leipzig, 1890, pp. 290–91 [Italian ed., Milan, 1897, p. 224; English ed., London, 1900, p. 224].
Ivan Lermolieff [Giovanni Morelli]. Kunstkritische Studien über italienische Malerei. Vol. 2, Die Galerien zu München und Dresden. Leipzig, 1891, p. 201 [English ed., London, 1893, p. 152].
Introduction by R[obert]. H. Benson inExhibition of Pictures, Drawings & Photographs of Works of the School of Ferrara-Bologna, 1440–1540. Exh. cat., Burlington Fine Arts Club. London, 1894, p. xxxii, calls it an early work.
Corrado Ricci. Antonio Allegri da Correggio: His Life, his Friends, and his Time. New York, 1896, pp. 104–6, ill. between pp. 106 and 107, agrees with Morelli's dating of about 1513–14; identifies it as the Misericordia altarpiece but disassociates it from the work mentioned in Fassi's wills.
Gustavo Frizzoni. "Lorenzo Lotto e Antonio Allegri detto il Correggio." Emporium 3 (April 1896), p. 250, ill. p. 245, calls it an early work.
Henry Thode. Correggio. Bielefeld, 1898, pp. 30–31, dates it about 1516 and states that Fassi commissioned it for the Misericordia.
Selwyn Brinton. Correggio. London, 1900, pp. 26, 51–52, 126, agrees with Morelli's dating.
Adolfo Venturi. "Nuovi quadri del Correggio." L'arte 4 (1901), p. 313, dates it to the same time as the Dresden Saint Francis altarpiece.
Salomon Reinach. Répertoire de peintures du moyen age et de la renaissance (1280–1580). Vol. 1, Paris, 1905, p. 528, ill. (engraving).
Selwyn Brinton. Correggio. London, 1906, pp. ix, xxvi.
T. Sturge Moore. Correggio. London, 1906, pp. 55, 59–61, 254, no. 8, dates it just before the Dresden Saint Francis altarpiece.
Bernhard Berenson. North Italian Painters of the Renaissance. New York, 1907, p. 200.
Selwyn Brinton. Correggio at Parma. 2nd ed. London, 1907, pp. 30–31.
Georg Gronau. Correggio, des meisters Gemälde. Stuttgart, 1907, pp. XVIII, 158–59, ill. p. 16, identifies it with the painting from the Misericordia and dates it 1514–15.
A. Edith Hewett. "Two Pictures from the Ashburton Collection." Burlington Magazine 12 (February 1908), p. 303, ill. p. 305, as on view at the dealer Sulley; dates it about 1515, just after the Dresden Saint Francis altarpiece.
Roger Fry. Letter to Bryson Burroughs. February 7, 1908 [published in Sutton 1972].
Wilhelm Suida. "Notes on the Early Development of Correggio." Burlington Magazine 14 (February 1909), p. 304, calls it the "next step" after the Dresden Saint Francis altarpiece.
Jean Paul Richter. Letter to Bryson Burroughs. September 22, 1912, calls it "a standard work of the master's early style".
G. Gronau inAllgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Künstler. Ed. Ulrich Thieme. Vol. 7, Leipzig, 1912, p. 460, as on the London art market; identifies it with the picture mentioned in Fassi's will of 1517.
B[ryson]. B[urroughs]. "Four Saints by Correggio." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 8 (February 1913), pp. 26–28, ill. p. 27 (detail) and on cover, follows Morelli's dating.
Michael Bryan. Bryan's Dictionary of Painters and Engravers. Ed. George C. Williamson. Vol. 1, rev. ed. London, 1913, p. 24.
Adolfo Venturi. "Note sul Correggio." L'arte 18 (1915), pp. 420–21, remarks on the influence of Raphael's "Saint Cecilia" (Pinacoteca Nazionale, Bologna).
Oscar Hagen. Correggio Apokryphen. Berlin, 1915, pp. 17–22, 173–74 nn. 24, 29, 33, considers it ordered by Fassi for the Misericordia, after 1528, from an imitator of Correggio.
Pia Roi. Il Correggio. Florence, 1921, p. 7, dates it to the same time as the Dresden altarpiece.
Giovanni Copertini. Note sul Correggio. Parma, 1925, p. 53, fig. 13.
A[dolfo]. Venturi. Storia dell'arte italiana. Vol. 9, part 2, La pittura del cinquecento. Milan, 1926, pp. 455, 462, 502–4, fig. 404, identifies it with the picture mentioned in Fassi's will of 1517.
Adolfo Venturi. Correggio. Rome, 1926, pp. 88–89, pl. 23.
Erich v[on]. d[er]. Bercken. Malerei der Renaissance in Italien: Die Malerei der Früh- und Hochrenaissance in Oberitalien. Potsdam, 1927, p. 254, no. 13, doubts whether it may be identified with the Misericordia altarpiece and questions the attribution to Correggio.
Paul de Stoecklin. Le Corrège. Paris, 1928, pp. 37, 104, dates it 1514–15.
Corrado Ricci. Correggio. London, 1930, pp. 30, 151–52, pl. XVII, tentatively dates it 1514.
Lionello Venturi. Pitture italiane in America. Milan, 1931, unpaginated, pl. CCCL, believes that it was probably executed for Fassi in 1517, after Correggio had seen Raphael's "Saint Cecilia".
Bernhard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance. Oxford, 1932, p. 154, lists it as an early work.
Lionello Venturi. Italian Paintings in America. Vol. 3, Sixteenth to Eighteenth Century. New York, 1933, unpaginated, pl. 469.
Riccardo Finzi. "Documenti intorno al Correggio." Il Correggio, raccolta di studi e memorie in onore di Antonio Allegri. Parma, 1934, pp. 70, 76–77.
Silvia de Vito Battaglia. Correggio bibliografia. Rome, 1934, pp. 34, 37, 47, 50, 67–68, 71, 87, 90, 96, 140, 151, 159, 200, 207, 268, 270, 272, 321, identifies it with the painting from the Misericordia.
Armando Ottaviano Quintavalle. Il Correggio: sguardo generale alle opere per il IV centenario dalla morte, 1534–1934. Parma, 1934, p. 16.
Hans Tietze. Meisterwerke europäischer Malerei in Amerika. Vienna, 1935, p. 331, pl. 106 [English ed., "Masterpieces of European Painting in America," New York, 1939, p. 315, pl. 106], dates it about 1515.
Bernhard Berenson. Pitture italiane del rinascimento. Milan, 1936, p. 132.
Harry B. Wehle. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of Italian, Spanish, and Byzantine Paintings. New York, 1940, pp. 153–55, ill., dates it probably 1517–19 on stylistic grounds, and states that "it seems reasonable to accept it as the one specified by Fassi".
Philip Pouncey. "An Unknown Early Drawing by Correggio in the Louvre." Burlington Magazine 93 (March 1951), p. 84.
Piero Bianconi. Tutta la pittura del Correggio. Milan, 1953, pp. 30, 34, pl. 13, dates it about 1514, and observes the influence of Raphael's "Saint Cecilia".
Roberto Longhi. Il Correggio e la camera di San Paolo a Parma. Genoa, 1956, p. 29 [reprinted in "Opere complete di Roberto Longhi," Florence, vol. 8, part 2, 1976, p. 48; and in Francesco Barocelli, ed. "Il Correggio e la Camera di San Paolo," Milan, 1988, p. 84], dates it between 1515 and 1518.
Riccardo Finzi. Il Correggio nel suo tempo. Modena, 1957, pp. 14, 17, tentatively dates it 1514, while also tentatively connecting it with the will of 1517.
A[rthur]. E[wart]. Popham. Correggio's Drawings. London, 1957, pp. xvi, 11, 16, 88, identifies it with the picture mentioned in Fassi's will of 1517 and notes that it is said to have come from the Misericordia.
Arthur Ewart Popham, ed. Correggio in Roma.. By Sebastiano Resta. n.p., 1958, pp. 68–69 nn. 53–54, identifies it with the painting in the Misericordia that Resta saw in 1690.
Roberto Longhi. "La fasi del Correggio giovine e l'esigenza del suo viaggio romano." Paragone 9 (May 1958), pp. 38, 41–42, 52 [reprinted in "Opere complete di Roberto Longhi," Florence, vol. 8, part 2, 1976, pp. 65, 67–68, 77; and in Francesco Barocelli, ed. "Il Correggio e la Camera di San Paolo," Milan, 1988, pp. 102, 107, figs. 56, 57 (detail)].
D[etlef]. Heikamp. "I viaggi di Federico Zuccaro, II." Paragone 9 (November 1958), p. 56 n. 62, publishes a letter from Federico Zuccaro to Pierleone Casella of about 1607–8 in which Zuccaro mentions a painting ("alcune figure del Correggio"), from the context apparently in the church of San Domenico in Correggio, that he had cleaned; lists pictures by the artist known to have been in Correggio at that time, including this one in the Misericordia.
Stefano Bottari inEncyclopedia of World Art. Vol. 3, New York, 1960, col. 819, identifies it with the picture mentioned in Fassi's will of 1517.
Erwin Panofsky. The Iconography of Correggio's Camera di San Paolo. London, 1961, p. 17 [reprinted in Italian in Francesco Barocelli, ed. "Il Correggio e la Camera di San Paolo," Milan, 1988, p. 159], dates it 1514–15.
Stefano Bottari. Correggio. Milan, 1961, pp. 13, 106–7, identifies it with the picture mentioned in Fassi's will of 1517.
Renée Marie Arb. "The Young Correggio: An Analysis of the Artistic Formation of Antonio Allegri." PhD diss., Radcliffe College, Harvard University, 1962, pp. 12, 94, 96–100; catalogue raisonné, pp. 51–55, no. 16, pl. 37a, dates it about 1515, noting the influence of Cesare da Sesto and of Antonio da Pavia's Novellara altarpiece of 1513–14.
Silla Zamboni. Correggio. Milan, 1963, unpaginated, dates it betwen the Dresden Saint Francis altarpiece of 1514–15 and the Albinea Madonna (lost), commissioned in 1517.
Myron Laskin Jr. "The Early Work of Correggio." PhD diss., New York University, 1964, pp. 21–24, 132–34, no. 13, fig. 13, dates it shortly before the "Madonna with Saint Francis" in Dresden, assuming that the Fassi documents are either incomplete or incorrectly transcribed.
Giovanni Copertini. "Il Correggio - Parte III - La vita e le opere - La formazione e l'evoluzione stilistica del Correggio." Parma per l'arte 15 (September–December 1965), p. 160, fig. 138, identifies it with the picture mentioned in Fassi's will of 1517 and finds it stylistically characteristic of Correggio's work of about 1518; relates the composition to that of the "Marriage of Saint Catherine" in the Detroit Institute of Arts and mentions the Leonardesque smile of the Magdalen.
John Maxon. "Correggio's Virgin and Child with the Infant St. John." Art News 65 (April 1966), pp. 31, 57.
Giovanni Copertini. "Il Correggio - Parte III - La vita e le opere - La formazione e l'evoluzione stilistica del Correggio." Parma per l'arte 16 (January–April 1966), pp. 39–40, no. 20, notes that Agnew offered this work in vain to the Italian government for 625,000 lire before sending it to America; mentions a drawing depicting four different saints in the Uffizi, Florence [see Ekserdjian 2008].
Bernard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance: Central Italian and North Italian Schools. London, 1968, vol. 1, p. 92.
A[rturo]. C[arlo]. Quintavalle inL'opera completa del Correggio. Milan, 1970, pp. 83, 92, no. 26, fig. 26, colorpl. V, dates it about 1517, but rejects the connection with Fassi's will of 1517.
Everett Fahy. "A Portrait of a Renaissance Cardinal as St. Jerome." Minneapolis Institute of Arts Bulletin 59 (1970), p. 13, fig. 10, dates it 1517, stating incorrectly that it was painted for a church in Parma and noting the influence of Raphael's Saint Cecilia altarpiece.
S. J. Freedberg. Painting in Italy: 1500 to 1600. Harmondsworth, England, 1971, p. 179, dates it about 1515, noting the influence of Raphael's Saint Cecilia altarpiece.
Cecil Gould. Letter to Everett Fahy. December 7, 1971, writes that he does not associate it with Fassi's will of 1517 and adds that the picture "has nothing to do with Raphael's 'S. Cecilia,' and that such superficial resemblance as they have is due to an ultimate common source in Perugino".
Elizabeth E. Gardner. "Dipinti rinascimentali del Metropolitan Museum nelle carte di G. B. Cavalcaselle." Saggi e memorie di storia dell'arte 8 (1972), pp. 72–73, fig. 26, cites the manuscript inventory of Ferdinando Marescalchi's collection [see Muñoz 1816–17] describing the history of the picture, and publishes four drawings by Cavalcaselle after it.
Burton B. Fredericksen and Federico Zeri. Census of Pre-Nineteenth-Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections. Cambridge, Mass., 1972, pp. 56, 366, 423, 428, 431, 443, 606.
Denys Sutton, ed. Letters of Roger Fry. New York, 1972, vol. 1, p. 295 n. 2 to letter no. 239 (February 7, 1908).
David Alan Brown. "Correggio's 'Virgin and Child with the Infant St. John'." Museum Studies 7 (1972), pp. 8, 26 n. 1, p. 28 n. 8, identifies it with the picture mentioned in Fassi's 1517 will.
Cecil Gould. Letter to Elizabeth E. Gardner. April 4, 1972, notes that in 1517, the time of his first will, Fassi already had an altar in the Misericordia.
Lino Moretti. G. B. Cavalcaselle: disegni da antichi maestri. Exh. cat., Fondazione Giorgio Cini, Venice. [Vicenza], 1973, pp. 98–99, 118, publishes drawings after it by Cavalcaselle [see also Gardner 1972] and Crowe (figs. 76, 104).
Cecil Gould. The Paintings of Correggio. London, 1976, pp. 21–22, 25, 37–38, 42–43, 177, 232–34, pls. 8–9 (overall and detail), dates it earlier than the Dresden "Madonna with Saint Francis" of 1514–15; believes that it was painted for the Misericordia.
David Alan Brown. "The Literature of Art: A New Book on Correggio." Burlington Magazine 119 (December 1977), p. 861, disagrees with Gould's (1976) dating of the picture.
John Pope-Hennessy. "Correggio Revalued." Apollo 106 (August 1977), p. 157, reviews Gould 1976.
John Shearman. "Correggio and the Connoisseurs." Times Literary Supplement (March 18, 1977), p. 302, reviewing Gould 1976, disagrees that this picture was painted before the Dresden "Madonna of Saint Francis".
Cecil Gould. "Letter: A legal point connected with Correggio." Burlington Magazine 120 (June 1978), p. 397, argues against Brown's (1977) dating to the period 1517–18 and points out that Fassi's two subsequent wills render the one of 1517 "legally invalid and therefore art-historically irrelevant".
Frank Büttner. "Cecil Gould, The Paintings of Correggio." Kunstchronik 31 (May 1978), p. 208, agrees with Gould in rejecting the connection with Fassi's 1517 will.
Charles E. Cohen. "Meaning in Pordenone's Susegana Altarpiece." Essays Presented to Myron P. Gilmore. Ed. Sergio Bertelli and Gloria Ramakus. Vol. 2, Florence, 1978, p. 118 n. 23, mentions it in the context of the stone on which Saint Peter rests his foot.
Everett Fahy. The Legacy of Leonardo: Italian Renaissance Paintings from Leningrad. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1979, p. 72, fig. 47.
Howard Hibbard. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1980, pp. 256, 258, fig. 460 (color).
David Alan Brown. The Young Correggio and His Leonardesque Sources. PhD diss., Yale University, New Haven. New York, 1981, pp. 84–88, 94, 96, 159–60 nn. 7–8, pp. 186, 196, 202–6, 208, 211, 213–14, no. 14, fig. 21, dates it 1517–18 and accepts it as the picture mentioned in Fassi's will; rejects the connection with Raphael's Saint Cecilia altarpiece.
John Pope-Hennessy. "Roger Fry and The Metropolitan Museum of Art." Oxford, China, and Italy: Writings in Honour of Sir Harold Acton on his Eightieth Birthday. Ed. Edward Chaney and Neil Ritchie. London, 1984, p. 234, notes that Fry recommended this altarpiece repeatedly for purchase, the last time in December 1909, but it was not purchased until 1912.
Federico Zeri with the assistance of Elizabeth E. Gardner. Italian Paintings: A Catalogue of the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, North Italian School. New York, 1986, pp. 8–11, pls. 64–65 (overall and detail), date it between 1515 and 1517, after the Dresden Saint Francis altarpiece; note that it was already in the church of Santa Maria Verberator, known as the Misericordia, in Correggio, by 1690, but do not feel that this rules out its having been commissioned for San Quirino after December 1517.
Cecil Gould inThe Age of Correggio and the Carracci: Emilian Painting of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art. Washington, 1986, pp. 98, 101, no. 27, ill. p. 99 (color) [Italian ed., "Nell'età di Correggio e dei Carracci: pittura in Emilia dei secoli XVI e XVII," Bologna, 1986].
Andrea Emiliani. "Natura e storia: due appuntamenti nell'organizzazione figurativa bolognese fra cinquecento e barocco." Emilian Painting of the 16th and 17th Centuries. Bologna, 1987, p. 12, fig. 3.
Massimo Pirondini inLa pittura in Italia: il Cinquecento. Ed. Giuliano Briganti. revised and expanded ed. [Milan], 1988, vol. 1, p. 254 n. 10.
Mario Di Giampaolo and Andrea Muzzi. Correggio: catalogo completo dei dipinti. Florence, 1993, pp. 48–49, no. 16, ill. (color), date it about 1517–18 and see the influence of Raphael's Saint Cecilia altarpiece.
Alessandro Ballarin. Dosso Dossi: la pittura a Ferrara negli anni del ducato di Alfonso I. Cittadella (Padua), 1994–95, vol. 2, fig. 332, dates it about 1513–14.
David Ekserdjian. Correggio. New Haven, 1997, pp. 4, 52, 54, 56–57, 59, 66, 68, 72–73, 170, 192, 235, 304 n. 105, p. 305 n. 115, figs. 52 (color), 53 (color detail), believes the picture was painted before Fassi's will of 1517 and after the Dresden Saint Francis altarpiece, dating it about 1516–17; rejects the connection with Raphael's Saint Cecilia altarpiece.
Marcin Fabianski. Correggio's Erotic Poesie. Kraków, 1998, pp. 23–24, 120 n. 13, fig. 5 [Italian ed., "Correggio: le mitologie d'amore," Cinisello Balsamo (Milan), 2000, pp. 37, 170 n. 13, fig. 14 (color)], dates it about 1517; sees the influence of Leonardo in the figure of Mary Magdalen.
Giovanni Romano. "Correggio in Mantua and San Benedetto Po." Dosso's Fate: Painting and Court Culture in Renaissance Italy. Ed. Luisa Ciammitti et al. Los Angeles, 1998, pp. 30, 39–40 n. 28, dates it about 1513–14.
Carolyn C. Wilson. St. Joseph in Italian Renaissance Society and Art. Philadelphia, 2001, p. 199 n. 36.
Andrea Bayer. "North of the Apennines: Sixteenth-Century Italian Painting in Lombardy and Emilia-Romagna." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 60 (Spring 2003), pp. 55–56, 58–59, fig. 38 (color), ill. p. 38 (color detail), dates it between 1514 and 1516, leaving open the question of whether it was painted before or after the Dresden altarpiece; notes the influence of Leonardo.
David Alan Brown. A Pietà by Correggio in Correggio. Milan, 2003, p. 32.
Eugenio Riccòmini. Seven Essays on Correggio. Milan, 2003, pp. 130, 166–67, fig. 10 (color), dates it before the Dresden Saint Francis altarpiece.
Elio Monducci. Il Correggio: la vita e le opere nelle fonti documentarie. Cinisello Balsamo (Milan), 2004, pp. 54–67, no. 4/A, ill. (color), traces the provenance of the picture through numerous primary sources; believes that the work was painted before 1517 for the Misericordia.
Maddalena Spagnolo. Correggio: geografia e storia della fortuna (1528–1657). Cinisello Balsamo (Milan), 2005, pp. 170, 287 n. 90, fig. 20 (color), suggests identifying the MMA painting with one mentioned by Zuccaro in a letter of about 1607–8 as in the church of San Domenico, Correggio [see Heikamp 1958].
Maddalena Spagnolo inCorreggio e l'antico. Ed. Anna Coliva. Exh. cat., Galleria Borghese, Rome. Milan, 2008, pp. 92–93, no. 4, ill. (color), dates it about 1516 and believes it was made for the Fassi chapel in the Misericordia; rejects the connection with Raphael's "Saint Cecilia"; rejecting her earlier suggestion (2005), now believes the work mentioned by Zuccaro in a letter of 1607–8 refers to some other unknown painting [see Heikamp 1958].
David Ekserdjian inCorreggio e l'antico. Ed. Anna Coliva. Exh. cat., Galleria Borghese, Rome. Milan, 2008, p. 169, under no. 47, mentions it in the entry for the drawing of four saints in the Uffizi, which he dates about 1530.
Mary Vaccaro et al. inCorreggio. Ed. Lucia Fornari Schianchi. Exh. cat., Galleria Nazionale et al., Parma. Milan, 2008, pp. 170, 185, 188–91, 251, 470, no. II.31, ill. (color, overall and details), date it about 1517, after the Dresden Saint Francis altarpiece.
Vittoria Romani inMantegna, 1431–1506. Ed. Giovanni Agosti and Dominique Thiébaut. Exh. cat., Musée du Louvre. Paris, 2008, pp. 409–10, believes that it probably dates from before the Dresden Saint Francis altarpiece of 1514–15.
Andrea Bayer. "Collecting North Italian Paintings at The Metropolitan Museum of Art." A Market for Merchant Princes: Collecting Italian Renaissance Paintings in America. Ed. Inge Reist. University Park, Pa., 2015, pp. 89–91, fig. 38 (color).
David Ekserdjian. Correggio and Parmigianino: Art in Parma During the Sixteenth Century. Exh. cat., Scuderie del Quirinale, Rome. Cinisello Balsamo, Milan, 2016, p. 187, under no. 5, p. 193, under no. 18.
The frame is possibly Genoese and dates to about 1640 (see Additional Images, figs. 1–4). This reverse profile cassetta frame is made of poplar and is handsomely carved and water gilded. Running outward from a center point to leaf-embellished corners, its inner molding is ornamented in a raking knull and dart, also known as gadrooning. Acanthus leaf ornament follows within its plain gilded plate. The outer edge is ornamented in laurel leaf, with additional acanthus ornament at the back edge. An early regilding disguises the evidence that the frame was enlarged on all four sides. This frame was put on this painting in the late 1970s.
[Timothy Newbery with Cynthia Moyer 2015; further information on this frame can be found in the Department of European Paintings files]
A copy attributed to the seventeenth-century painter Giuseppe Orazio Capretti was made to replace the original, but has been in the church of San Francesco, Correggio, since at least 1817. In the copy, Saint Mary Magdalen is replaced by Saint Ursula holding a banner. Pungileoni (1817) mentions a second copy then in the Gerez collection, Correggio, and there were apparently other old copies in private homes in the town (Lanzi 1795–96).
Artist: Correggio (Antonio Allegri) (Italian, Correggio, active by 1514–died 1534 Correggio) Date: ca. 1522–25Medium: Pen and brown ink, brush and gray-brown wash, highlighted with white gouache, squared in red chalk, on paper tinted with reddish washAccession: 19.76.9On view in:Not on view
Artist: School of Correggio (Antonio Allegri) (Italian, Correggio, active by 1514–died 1534 Correggio) Date: 1489–1534Medium: Red chalk, partly reworked with black chalk; glued onto secondary paper supportAccession: 19.151.1On view in:Not on view