Attr. Ludovico Carracci
The Marriage of the Virgin, c. 1586/87
(Possibly) Marchesi Tanari, Palazzo Tanari, Bologna.
With Colnaghi, London, 1979.
With Pietro Scarpa Gallery, Venice, 1986.
Private Collection, Europe.
(Possibly) C.C. Malvasia, Felsina Pittrice, vite de’pittori bolognesi, 1686, p. 347.
L. Ciammitti, in Tre artisti nella Bologna dei Bentivoglio, exh. cat., Pinacoteca Nazionale, Bologna, 1985, p. 62, note 1.
G. Feigenbaum, in A. Emiliani (ed.), Ludovico Carracci, exhibition catalogue, Museo Civico Archaeologico, Bologna and Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, 1993, p. 62, no. 29, note 1.
D. Stephen Pepper, “Ludovico Carracci: A new sequence of his works and additions to his catalogue”, in Atti e memorie, Bologna, 1995, p. 52.
A. Brogi, Ludovico Carracci, 2001, vol. I, p. 274, no. R55; vol. II (illus. fig. 296, as “copia”)
London, Colnaghi, Old Master Paintings and Drawings, 1979, no. 6.
Bologna, Museo Civico Archaeologico, Ludovico Carracci, 25 Sept. – 12 Dec. 1993; this exhibition later travelled to Fort Worth, TX, Kimbell Art Museum, 22 Jan. – 10 April 1994.
Ludovico Carracci’s principal biographer, the Count Carlo Cesare Malvasia (op. cit.), recounts that Ludovico painted two versions of the Marriage of the Virgin. Malvasia reports that in the second version the painter improved the composition by opening a view of a landscape behind the altar, thereby allowing the viewer to see into the distance. This description suggests a possible identification of the present painting with this second autograph version of the composition. Malvasia identified the painting as “l’istessissimo che hannoi Signori Marchesi Tanari, con qualche aggionta, del gran Lodovico”.
There are additional differences between the two versions that allow us to date this work to some two years later than the first version. That work is painted in soft pinks, yellows and mauves, a palette that is derived from the painter Federico Barocci. The present version is painted in stronger colours: the yellow is a bright lemon, and the pink has become a striking red. These changes in colouration, the stature of the figures and treatment of depth suggest that this painting is close in date to the Assumption of the Virgin of 1587, now in the North Carolina Museum of Art. The original version should be dated to around 1584/85.
The differences between the two paintings reflect the development in Ludovico’s career from the intimate Baroque manner of his early years to the much more ambitious phase of activity that began with this painting and continued in the North Carolina Assumption, the Burgellini Altarpiece (1588) and the altarpiece in Cento of 1591. In his 1995 article, Pepper writes: “We can compare the two treatments of the Marriage of the Virgin (cat. no. 29) we see the identical changes that mark the differences between the early period and the Assumption. The second Marriage displays the same range of palette as the Assumption, and in the figures the sweet innocence and fragility that characterizes the Baroccesque phase have been replaced by a new amplitude, and the complexity of movement on the surface and in depth is shown most strikingly by the opening to an actual landscape passage in the background” (Pepper, op. cit.)
Although Sir Denis Mahon, Dr. Stephen Pepper and Dr. Aidan Weston-Lewis have accepted this work as an autograph second version, Alessandro Brogi believes it to be a workshop copy.