Lot 148
  • 148

Antonio della Corna (or Cornia)

150,000 - 200,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Antonio della Corna (or Cornia)
  • Saint Julian the Hospitaller, believing to surprise his wife and a lover, Kills his Parents
  • signed and inscribed in Latin lower right: .HOC Q[UOD] MANTENEE DIDICI[T] SVB DOGMATE/ CLARI-/ ANTONI CORNE DEXTERA PINXIT/ OPVS-
    and dated on the coat-of-arms hanging on the wall: M/ CCCC and LXXX/ VIII [1488]

  • oil on panel


In the collection of the artist and biographer Giambattista Zaist (1700-1757), Cremona;
In the collection of Panni, editor of the posthumous edition of Zaist's book (see Literature), Cremona, after 1774;
Conti Averoldi, Brescia, by 1827 (according to Grasselli, see Literature);
Monsignor Bignami collection, Casalmaggiore, by 1869 (according to Galantino, see Literature);
Pelletier collection, Paris, by 1932 (according to Fiocco, see Literature);
With Galleria Bellini, Florence, by 1954;
With Agnew's, London, 1967 (according to Kaftal, see Literature);
Acquired from the above shortly afterwards by the father of the present owner;
Thence by descent.


Florence, Palazzo Strozzi,  La casa italiana nei secoli. Mostra delle arti decorative in Italia dal Trecento all'Ottocento, May - October 1948;
London, Agnew's, Old Masters. Recent Acquisitions, 1967, no. 50.


G.B. Zaist, Notizie istoriche de' pittori, scultori ed architetti Cremonesi, Cremona 1774, ed. Rome 1965, pp. 37-39;
G. Biffi, Memorie per servire alla storia degli artisti cremonesi, 1773-1788, ed. Cremona 1989, pp. 29-30;
P. Ceruti, Biografia soncinate, Milan 1834, pp. 96-101;
F. Galantino, Storia di Soncino con documenti, Milan 1869, pp. 321-22;
L. Lanzi, Storia Pittorica d'Italia, Bassano 1809, vol. IV, pp. 119 ff.;
G. Grasselli, Abecedario biografico dei pittori, scultori ed architetti cremonesi, Milan 1827, p. 109;
J.A. Crowe & G.B. Cavalcaselle, A History of Painting in North Italy, vol. II, London 1871, p. 73, footnote 1;
F. Sacchi, Notizie pittoriche cremonesi raccolte da F. Sacchi, Cremona 1872, pp. 101-2;
M. Salmi, "Una Mostra di antica pittura lombarda", in L'Arte, Year XXVI, 1923, p. 154;
G. Fiocco, "Porträts aus der Emilia", in Pantheon, vol. 10, no. 11, November 1932, p. 340, reproduced p. 338;
R. Longhi, Carlo Braccesco, Milan 1942, p. 25, footnote 26;
C.L. Ragghianti, La casa italiana nei secoli. Mostra delle arti decorative in Italia dal Trecento all'Ottocento, exhibition catalogue, Florence, Palazzo Strozzi, May - October 1948, p. 45;
A. Podestà, "La casa italiana nei secoli", in Emporium, vol. CVII, no. 646, October 1948, p. 174, reproduced;
A. Puerari, La Pinacoteca di Cremona, Cremona 1951, p. 54;
C. Baroni & S. Samek Ludovici, La pittura lombarda del Quattrocento, Messina 1952, pp. 81 and 225;
L. Coletti, Pittura Veneta del Quattrocento, Novara 1953, p. XLIV, p. 44, footnote 53, reproduced plate 81;
F. Bologna, "The Cremonese Ceiling from Via Belvedere," in The Burlington Magazine, vol. 96, no. 615, June 1954, pp. 167-68, footnote 10, reproduced, fig. 12;
A. Puerari, Boccaccino, Milan 1957, p. 38;
F. Voltini, "Antonio della Corna ad Asola", in Paragone, vol. IX, no. 97, January 1958, p. 14;
F. Zeri, "Studies on Italian Paintings II: Panels of the Passion of Christ by Antonio della Corna," in Journal of the Walters Art Gallery,  vols. 29-30, 1966-67, p. 57;
M. Trionfi-Honorati, "A proposito del 'Lettuccio'", in Antichità Viva, vol. 20, no. 3, 1981, p. 45, footnote 39, reproduced fig. 12;
G. Kaftal, Iconography of the Saints in the Painting of North-West Italy, Florence 1985, pp. 414-17, reproduced fig. 581;
M. Tanzi, "Ipotesi per Paolo Antonio de Scazolis", in Itinerari, vol. 5, 1988, p. 101;
M. Tanzi, 'Della Corna, Antonio', in Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani, vol. XXXVI, Rome 1988, p. 760;
G. Bolaffi ed., Dizionario Enciclopedico dei Pittori e degli Incisori Italiani, vol. III, Turin 1990, p. 439;
M. Tanzi, "Fra Quattro- e Cinquecento: un crocivio culturale al centro della Valle Padana", in ed. M. Gregori, Pittura a Cremona dal Romanico al Settecento, Milan 1990, p. 19;
A. Galli, Antonio della Corna e il Maestro di Palazzo d'Arco: Due Artisti tra Cremona e Mantova a fine Quattrocento, Doctoral Dissertation, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore di Milano, Milan 1993, pp. 192-202;
A. Galli, "Antonio della Corna e il Maestro di Palazzo d'Arco", in Arte Cristiana, vol. LXXXIII, no. 769, July - August 1995, pp. 275-76, and p. 282, footnote 7, reproduced p. 276, fig. 1 (as dated 1488).

Catalogue Note

Although Antonio della Corna is little-known outside of his native Cremona, this panel is a seminal work in his œuvre for, being signed, inscribed and dated, it constitutes the artist's earliest known work. The first reference to the painting is in Giambattista Zaist's book on Cremonese artists, edited by Zaist's brother-in-law and published posthumously in 1774. At the time of writing, Zaist actually owned the painting and indulged in a detailed description of the work, transcribing the inscription and date, which he erroneously read as 1478. He wrote: 'I am lucky to have come across a painting on panel, by his hand, which, despite suffering from woodworm, appears nicely painted and well preserved. It is currently in my possession, and thus I have to mention it, even though it hangs in my private home, because it is the only [painting] on which I can base these brief notices.'1  Zaist's account served as the principal source for subsequent scholars, all of whom assumed it to be accurate due to his firsthand knowledge of the painting.2  In fact, the date reads 1488 (not 1478) and this accords well with what is known of Della Corna's later activity. The panel still maintains its status as Della Corna's earliest recorded work and remains only one of two firmly documented paintings by the artist.3

Zaist was the first to describe the panel as 'mantegnesque' and Della Corna's inscription would appear to support this judgement: "Hoc, quod Manteneae didicit sub Dogmate claris, Antonii Cornae dextera pinxit opus" ('This work, which he learned under the instruction of the famous Mantegna, was painted by the hand of Antonio della Corna'). Despite declaring himself a pupil of Mantegna's, Della Corna's words should not be taken literally. Cavalcaselle did so and this led him to mistakenly identify the artist of this painting as Antonio da Pavia, a pupil of Mantegna in Mantua, despite the artist's name being clearly stated as Antonio della Corna (Antonii Cornae).Though Della Corna may not have been a direct pupil of Mantegna the painting's mantegnesque elements are self-evident. Most obviously, the figure of Saint Julian's father, reclining in bed and shown in sharp foreshortening, is clearly inspired by Mantegna's Dead Christ in the Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan.5  Scholars have noted the influence of Francesco Cossa and Baldassare d'Este, thus illustrating the diffusion of Ferrarese culture in Lombardy.

The scene shows Julian the Hospitaller (also known as Julian the Poor) murdering his own parents, whom he has mistakenly taken for his wife in the arms of a lover.  Della Corna sets the scene in a 15th-century bedroom: the headboard of the bed is painted with a landscape that is a continuation of the 'actual' view visible through both arched window openings.

We are grateful to Alessandro Galli for his assistance in cataloguing this lot.

1. 'A me però è toccata la sorte, di rinvenire una Tavola di legno, da esso dipinta, la quale, benchè rosa dal tarlo, pur apparisce ancora ben colorita, e competentemente conservata. Ella è ora esistente appresso di me, che trovomi costretto a mentovarla, quantunque riposte in luogo private, perchè è l'unica, da cui ricavar posso le presenti, scarse notizie' (Zaist, see Literature, p.38).
2. Galli was the only one who correctly read the date as 1488, following the correct transcription in the Agnew's 1967 exhibition catalogue.
3. The only other firmly documented work is Della Corna's triptych in the Bagatti-Valsecchi collection, which is signed and dated 1494.
4. The information about Cavalcaselle is relayed by Bologna, under Literature, p. 167.
5. For which see N. Garavaglia, L'opera completa del Mantegna, Milan 1967, pp. 108-9, cat. no. 57, reproduced in colour plates LX-LXI.
6. A whole article has been dedicated to the design of the 'lettuccio' (bed), in which this painting is mentioned: see Trionfi-Honorati, under Literature.