The Holy Family, oil on canvas, 112 x 90 cm, framed
The attribution of this painting to Bartolomeo Schedoni has been endorsed by Dr. Emilio Negro (written communication) and Dr. Nicosetta Roio.
The painting depicts the Madonna holding up the Infant Christ, who stands up on a ledge where an open book is placed; a half-length figure of Saint Joseph, holding a staff, is depicted at left. The theme of the Holy Family, in different combinations, with the Infant Baptist and other figures, was one of Schedoni’s preferred subjects to which he returned on several occasions and examples and variations of which are recorded in different collections from the 17th century onwards.
The present composition, although slightly smaller, is very close to a picture on canvas, 106 x 89cm (Paris, Louvre, inv. 661), which was previously recorded in the Farnese collections in 1693, where it hung in the Ducal Palace in Parma in the apartments of Maria Maddalena Farnese (inv. 661, 106 x 89 cm); (see E. Negro, N. Roio, Bartolomeo Schedoni, Modena 2002, p. 85, cat. no. 30.1).
A similar composition, with a number of differences, on panel, 56 x 26cm (Bologna, Pinacoteca Nazionale, inv. 607), was partially painted by the studio (see E. Negro, N. Roio, Bartolomeo Schedoni, Modena 2002, p. 86 cat. no. 30.2).
According to Negro, the present Holy Family is datable to shortly after the Louvre picture, around 1610, and the present painting should also be compared to the Mary Magdalene (London, private collection), which is recorded as being delivered to Duke Ranuccio in late 1609.
The present painting displays Schedoni’s highly elegant and graceful painterly style; the execution is polished in the flesh tones and much of the drapery, while a more loose painterly application is displayed in other details, such as in the white head scarf of the Virgin and in the fluffy beard and hair of Joseph and the Child. The refined harmony of the colours is also typical of the artist.
Schedoni was for most of his career under the patronage and protection of two of the most sophisticated courts in North Italy: the Este in Modena and the Farnese in Parma. He was the son of Giulio Schedoni, a mask-maker, who also served the Este court in Modena and the Farnese in Parma. In 1598 Schedoni and his father are recorded in Parma, both serving the court. In 1595 Ranuccio I, Duke of Parma, sent Bartolomeo to Rome to train in the studio of Federico Zuccaro, then one of the most important painters in the city. Schedoni’s time in Rome was very short as he fell ill shortly after his arrival and returned to Parma. This visit appears to have made little impact on the young artist’s style and it seems rather that he was influenced by the large and varied collections of the Este and Farnese families. In 1607 Schedoni signed a contract to serve the court in Parma. From this time Schedoni resided at Parma as Ranuccio I’s favourite painter. In these years he painted important works for Ranuccio I, but he must also have entertained private commissions, or sold his work, mainly small-scale devotional paintings such as the present example to other collectors.
Schedoni was especially influenced by the work of Correggio, whose works surrounded him in his adoptive city of Parma as is evident in the present picture. These tendencies seem to have been tempered by an awareness of the advances by the Carracci in Bologna, and late in his career the arrival of Lanfranco in Parma also had an impact on work.
We are grateful to Dr. Emilio Negro for his help in cataloguing the present painting.
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