Girolamo da Carpi, ‘The Assumption of the Virgin’, Christie's Old Masters

This charming panel by Girolamo da Carpi, painter and decorator at the Este court in Ferrara, depicts the Assumption of the Virgin. At lower left, the diminutive figure of Saint Joseph raises his hands to receive Mary's girdle. Borne aloft in a flurry of angels, Mary is an image of serenity as she gazes down towards earth. Her vibrant robes and the warm light radiating behind her, in which ephemeral visages of cherubim and seraphim materialize, underscore the otherworldliness of the scene.

Trained in the workshop of Garofalo (1481-1559) and exposed from an early stage to the art of other Ferrarese painters like Dosso Dossi (c. 1486-1541/2), Girolamo was also influenced by Raphael, whose work he saw in Bologna and in Rome. In Bologna he also met Parmigianino, whose work was thereafter a strong influence, especially his portraiture. According to Vasari, Girolamo studied the art of Titian and Giulio Romano, as well as the monumental frescoes of Correggio in Modena and Parma. The present panel was, in fact, once attributed to the latter master.

Girolamo was primarily active in Emilia, where his name first appears in the account books of the Este court in 1537. He was much patronized by the Este in Ferrara. He decorated the Palazzo della 'Montagna di Sotto', worked on the construction of the Palazzo Naselli Crispi and on renovations to the Castello Estense, the ducal palace. In the 1540s he also painted several works with allegorical and mythological themes for Ercole II d'Este (1508-1559), Duke of Ferrara from 1534 until 1559.

The present lot may provide further evidence of Girolamo's relationship with the Este family. An inventory from 1586 of the collections of Margherita Gonzaga (1564-1618), Duchess of Ferrara after her marriage to Alfonso II d'Este (1533-1597) in 1579, lists an Assumption of the Virgin by Girolamo da Carpi as in the room facing the courtyard ('Nela Sda faciata verso il Cortille uno quadro dela Sensione de la Madona de m. GEROLAMO DA CARPI') (see Libro di debitori, segnato B, Della munizione delle fabbriche, 1586-1591, in A. Venturi, Archivio storico dell'Arte, Rome, 1888, I, pp. 425-426). If identifiable as this picture, the present lot may have been made for a member of the Este court and subsequently descended within the family to Margherita's husband.

Our thanks to Keith Christiansen for pointing out the possible reference in the Gonzaga inventory.

(Possibly) Libro di debitori, ecc. segnato B. Della munizione delle fabbriche, 1586-1591, A c 13, in A. Venturi, Archivio Storico dell'Arte, Rome, 1888, I, p. 425 'Nela Sda faciata verso il Corille uno quadro dela Sensione de la Madona de m. GEROLAMO DA CARPI...'.

(Possibly) Este family, Ferrara.

(Possibly) Margherita Gonzaga, duchess of Ferrara (recorded in a 1586 inventory).

S. Pollack; Christie's, London, 29 June 1945, lot 150, as 'Correggio'.

Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, London, 9 March 1983, lot 37 (£ 4,800).

About Girolamo da Carpi

Italian, 1501-1556, Ferrara, Italy, based in Ferrara, Italy

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