The Virgin and Child with Saints and Angels
red chalk, pen, ink, wash
Antonio Allegri called Correggio (1489-1534) was the leading painter of the early 16th century in Parma. His most influential work is the fresco in the dome of the Cathedral of Parma. This ground breaking illusionistic painting depicts The Assumption of the Virgin (1534) in the central cupola with the figure of Mary ascending through a sea of limbs, faces and swirling drapery into a vision of heaven.
This drawing of The Virgin and Child with Saints and Angels shows the same energetic creativity and reveals the process of the master’s thoughts as he aimed to create a perfect composition. Correggio starts in his favourite medium of red chalk, drawing line over line, altering the position of the figures constantly on the paper until it is stained orange from the excessive use of red chalk, which he even washes over with water. He then arrives at the final composition with a quickly drawn network of lines in pen and ink.
The drawing remains difficult to decipher at first glance, but when we allow ourselves to emerge in it, the rapid scribble and myriad of lines in chalk and pen start to reveal the artist’s vision. The figures surface from the red background with the Christ child in the centre and Mary, Joseph (?) and the infant St John arranged around him. The composition shows Correggio’s deep understanding of gestures and body language and illustrates his mastery in depicting a complicated arrangement of figures. In order to make the Christ child the focal point he uses several compositional devices. For example: the contorted figure on the left with the muscular, well defined leg creates almost a bracket around the group with the leg of the figure on the right hand side. This bracket confines the gaze to the central figures of the Virgin and child. The viewer’s gaze then follows the inner lines of defining arms leading to the focal point of the Christ child.
Correggio was a master draughtsman and this drawing gives a vivid insight into the process of his creative mind, something that a finished painting cannot offer.
PR Assistant Christ Church Picture Gallery
Registered Charity Number: 1143423