The Madonna of Saint Jerome (Ill Giorno)
Black and red chalk
Purchased through the Julia L. Whittier Fund; 2005.40
In the Lives of the Painters by Giorgio Vasari (1511–1574), published in 1550, he described Correggio’s painting The Madonna of Saint Jerome (about 1527-28) in Parma as “so wonderful and astounding that painters revere it . . . and it is scarcely possible to paint better." Such praise quickly elevated the status of the work to the point that it was considered one of the supreme masterpieces of the Renaissance. Later generations of artists carefully studied Correggio’s altarpiece (measuring approximately 6 1/2 x 4 1/2 feet) in order to assimilate its distinct qualities, and from the late sixteenth century onward Correggio was regarded by artists as a consummate Renaissance master. There were an estimated twenty-eight printed copies of The Madonna of Saint Jerome executed between 1586 and 1876.
Prints after Correggio’s paintings were extremely rare before 1600, and the first print to reproduce The Madonna of Saint Jerome was Carracci’s large engraving, based on a drawing he had executed six years before. Agostino was an accomplished printmaker, whose works numbered over two hundred. This engraving is regarded as one of his greatest prints. However, Carracci did not merely replicate the original composition in the proper orientation. He introduced a number of modifications in order to create a successful print, particularly by increasing the density of the foliage in the background, thereby limiting the space behind the figures and heightening one’s attention on the foreground. Within a few months, two other printmakers copied Carracci’s print and produced slightly smaller versions that included the same alterations.
The practice of making drawings after the works of other masters was one that Federico Zuccaro maintained throughout his long and distinguished career. He was associated with the art academies in Florence and Rome, and it has been suggested that these copies may also have been used by him as teaching aids. Nearly all of the sheets were executed in a combination of red and black chalk, which in this particular example highlight the scarlet fabrics and light skin tones. This drawing was acquired by a succession of Frenchmen in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, dating back as early as Everard Jasbach (1618-1695), one of the most prestigious private collectors of his day. At some point during the early history of the sheet, a fictive mount was added and inscribed with the names of both Zuccaro and Correggio. The practice of mounting important drawings on separate sheets and surrounding them with decorative borders dated back to the sixteenth century.
Last Updated: 1/21/10