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Old Masters, Renaissance, Fresco Ceiling, Parma Cathedral, Antique Drawing, 18th Century


Fresco Ceiling of the Parma Cathedral
Continental: 19th Century
Sepia ink and wash on paper
21.75 x 16.25 inches

An original humorous study incorporating a portion of The Assumption of the Virgin, a fresco painted by the Italian Renaissance artist Antonio da Correggio (c. 1489-1534), completed in 1534 on the ceiling of the dome in the Cathedral of Parma, Italy. The original fresco inspired the illusionistic Baroque ceilings by later artists such as Tiepolo and was a “must see” for foreign tourists on the Grand Tour.


Executed in a loose, painterly sketch style, the work apparently is intended as both an artist’s study and a humorous, if not satirical view, with the intrusion of a real person through an opened window. The artist takes some liberties with the alignment of the elements of the actual fresco, but incorporates part of St. Hilary in a niche (lower right), some of the gesturing angels and apostles, and a particularly notorious detail — the view from below of one of the many angels in the sky, showing splayed legs with a bit of drapery between them as originally depicted by Correggio. Indeed, many descriptions of the dome note the wry comments provoked by the imagery of the Assumption over the years, with one of Correggio’s contemporaries comparing it to a “hash of frogs’ legs” and Charles Dickens asserting that the jumble of figures was something “no operative surgeon gone mad could imagine in his wildest delirium.” In this spirit, the artist is apparently demonstrating his sense of humor by introducing into this study a real schoolboy bursting into the dome through one of the round windows, looking up and marveling at the writhing sea of bare legs that Correggio included in the fresco.

Condition: Generally very good with the usual light wear, toning, soft creases, handling. At some point, apparently folded into quarters, folds now flattened and unobtrusive, but slightly weak. Few short marginal tears restored. Small chip to lower right edge. Linen tape remnants upper margin backside from former matting.


“Cupola Duomo Parma Correggio.jpg.” Wikipedia Commons.  23 April 2009. (18 October 2012).

Davies, James A. The Textual Life of Dickens’s Characters. Savage, Maryland: Barnes & Noble Books, 1990. p. 69. Online at Google Books: (18 October 2012).

Dunford, Martin. The Rough Guide to Italy. Rough Guides, 2011. Online at Google Books: (18 October 2012).

Additional information


19th Century