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Head of an Angel
Correggio
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This is a fresco fragment from Correggio’s Coronation of the Virgin, which he painted in the apse of the church of S. Giovanni Evangelista in Parma. The fresco depicted Christ crowning the Virgin in heaven, surrounded by the evangelists and doctors of the church, and little angels known in Italian as putti. Christ and the Virgin Mary are seated beneath a flowering garden pergola, which reveals that the scene is set in paradise.

This head belonged to the angel to the left of the Virgin, who held Saint Benedict’s crosier, as he was a bishop. You can just make out the angel’s fingers; the line running up the side of his face is the staff of the crosier.

The apse of the church was destroyed in the 1580s when the choir was enlarged, but the central figures of Correggio’s fresco showing the coronation of the Virgin were saved and are in the Galleria Nazionale, Parma.

Key facts
Artist Correggio
Artist dates active 1494; died 1534
Full title Head of an Angel
Series Fragments from The Coronation of the Virgin
Date made probably about 1522
Medium and support Fresco
Dimensions 36.9 x 33 cm
Acquisition credit Presented by Sir Robert Witt, 1925
Inventory number NG4067
Location in Gallery Not on display
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Fragments from The Coronation of the Virgin

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These are fresco fragments from Correggio’s Coronation of the Virgin, which once decorated the apse of the church of S. Giovanni Evangelista in Parma. The fresco depicted Christ crowning the Virgin Mary in paradise surrounded by the evangelists and doctors of the church, and baby angels known in Italian as putti.

The Virgin was the principal patron saint of Parma and the coronation of the Virgin was depicted on the city’s seal as well as its coinage. A coin of 1526 shows a design particularly close to Correggio’s Coronation of the Virgin, suggesting that his fresco had an immediate impact on the city.

The apse was destroyed when the choir was enlarged, but the heads of angels were saved and are now in the National Gallery. The central figures showing Christ and the Virgin are now in the Galleria Nazionale, Parma. In 1587 a replica of Correggio’s fresco was painted in the new apse of S. Giovanni Evangelista.

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