Girolamo da Carpi
- Girolamo da Carpi
- The Holy Family
oil on panel, rounded top, extended to form a rectangle
Graaf Ferdinand van Plettenberg en Wittem, Amsterdam, before 1738;
His sale, Amsterdam, van de Land, 2 April 1738, lot 2 (as Francesco Parmigianino), where unsold;
His sale, Amsterdam, van de Land, 11 April 1743, lot 11 (as Francesco Parmigianino);
John Barnard (1709-1784), London, by 1761 (his initials, inventory number 31, and "Parmigianino" inscribed on the reverse);
Thence by inheritance to his nephew, Thomas Hankey, London, 1784;
His deceased sale, London, Christie's, 7 June 1799, lot 33 (as Parmigianino);
Where acquired by Michael Bryan (1757-1821), London;
Mrs. Violet Olivia Fisher née Cressy (1895-1970), London;
Her deceased sale, London, Knight Frank & Rutley, 17 December 1970, lot 75 (as Parmadiano[sic]);
Where acquired by Thomas Agnew & Sons, Ltd., London;
Anonymous sale, London, Christie's, 16 July 1971, lot 149 (as Parmigianino);
Where acquired by French & Co., New York;
From whom acquired by Burton B. Fredericksen, 1972;
By whom donated to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1972.
G. Hoet II, Catalogus of naamlyst van schilderyen met derzelver pryzen..., The Hague 1752, vol. I, p. 495, no. 2, vol. II, p. 89, no. 2 (as Parmigianino);
R. Dodsley, London and its Environs Described, 1761, p. 280 (as Parmigianino);
B. Fredericksen, "Recent Gifts of Paintings," in The J. Paul Getty Museum Journal, vol. 3, Malibu 1976, p. 105, reproduced fig. 2;
A. Mezzetti, Girolamo da Ferrara detto da Carpi: l'opera pittorica, Milan 1977, p. 92, cat. no. 104, reproduced plate 51, and pp. 33-34, 49 (under note 124), 63 under the year 1553;
D. Jaffé, Summary Catalogue of European Paintings in the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles 1997, p. 52, reproduced;
A. Pattanaro, Girolamo da Carpi: Ritratti, Padova 2000, p. 71, reproduced fig. 30.
This Holy Family was first recognized as a rare work by Girolamo da Carpi by Burton Fredericksen (see Literature), the former chief curator of the Getty Museum, who purchased the painting in a private capacity and subsequently donated it to the museum. It was long thought to be by Parmigianino, as testified by past misattributions in the painting's provenance. Though Girolamo was very much a Ferrarese artist brought up in the tradition of Garofalo, his later works, such as the present painting which can be dated stylistically to the late 1540s, point to the unmistakable influence of Parmigianino.
While the cavernous background and the use of shadows on the faces to push the figures towards us in the pictorial space are unusual in the artist's oeuvre, various elements in the work do echo other known paintings from this period. For example, the Madonna's seemingly boneless thumb and the way the breast is modelled follow the handling of the Judith in Dresden.1 The body of the Infant Christ is likewise reminiscent of another painting from the same decade which is also in Dresden, the Rape of Ganymede; the positioning of the legs of the Child have been reversed but parallel Ganymede's limbs.2 The strong modeling of the head of Joseph - the only part of his figure which is visible and which peers in from outside the composition - and his expression reveal a close knowledge of Parmigianino's work and point to the latter's figure of Saint Zachary in the Uffizi's Madonna and Child with the Young Baptist, Mary Magdalene and Saint Zachary.3 Similarly, as suggested by Pattanaro (see Literature), the Madonna's face, and the beautiful highlights of her and Jesus' hair, can be usefully compared to Parmigianino's Madonna of the Rose, again in Dresden.4
However, as noted by Mezzetti (see Literature), both the composition and the subject are more complicated and subtle than many of Carpi's works. He has taken unusual care in describing the composition's space with great clarity; tension is created by leaning the Madonna's knee against the lower edge and, as if to draw attention to this careful placement, the Child's foot also balances along the edge. Moreover, the customary warmth which imbues traditional depictions of the Holy Family has here been replaced by a sense of urgency and foreboding. Joseph's furrowed brow points to his concern over what is to come; the Madonna's arms seem not so much to tenderly cuddle her Son as to hold him back and protect him from his future. The increased complexity of the subject and design have lead Mezzetti to posit that the work could well have been executed as late as 1550, when the artist was in Rome working for Ippolito d'Este. If this is so, it could well be the work mentioned by Vasari in his Lives (see Literature), though the subject of that painting is not specified.
1. See Mezzetti, under Literature, pp. 75-76, cat. no. 34, reproduced fig. 39.
2. Idem, p. 75, cat. no. 35, reproduced fig. 38 and in colour plate XVI.
3. See M. Vaccaro, Parmigianino, The Paintings, Turin 2002, pp. 177-78, cat. no. 32, reproduced in colour plate LIV.
4. Idem, pp. 175-76, cat. no. 31, reproduced in colour plate LI.