Correggio spent most of his brief career in the northern Italian city of Parma. Removed from the great centers of Renaissance art, he was able to create a remarkably innovative body of work. This intimate devotional panel is a product of the artist’s youth. Here Correggio revealed his own evolving style while assimilating lessons from other masters. The panel’s pyramidal grouping of figures reflects the High Renaissance manner of Raphael, while their soft outlines and the Virgin’s enigmatic smile recall Leonardo da Vinci. The evocative use of the distant landscape demonstrates the young artist’s awareness of Northern European precedents. The gentle sensuousness of the figures and the tenderness they show one another through glance are unique to Correggio. The artist used light, shadow, and color to bathe the panel in a gentle glow; skin and fabrics appear to take on a velvety texture. The expressive, idyllic quality of this painting presages the radiant ceiling frescoes of Correggio’s maturity, especially those in Parma’s Cathedral.

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