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Correggio, Christ taking Leave of his Mother

Key facts
Full title Christ taking Leave of his Mother
Artist Correggio
Artist dates active 1494; died 1534
Date made probably before 1514
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 86.7 × 76.5 cm
Acquisition credit Presented by Lord Duveen, 1927
Inventory number NG4255
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
Christ taking Leave of his Mother

Christ kneels before his mother to ask for her blessing as he prepares to leave and follow his destiny. He is robed in white against the blueish landscape, his pose conveying a sense of delicacy and stillness. The Virgin Mary swoons, her face and hands drained of colour – she knows that her son is leaving to go to his certain death. She falls into the arms of her companion, who is probably one of the Three Marys, who supported the Virgin during the Passion (Christ’s torture and crucifixion). Saint John the Evangelist stands behind Christ, wringing his hands in grief.

This is one of Correggio’s most impressive early paintings. The subject does not figure in any of the Gospels and is rare in Italian Renaissance art. However, it was common in German paintings and engravings, which Correggio admired. X-ray images reveal that Correggio began a different version of this picture but then abandoned it, turned the canvas upside down and started again.

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