(b. 1503, Parma, d. 1540, Casal Maggiore)

Madonna and Child

c. 1525
Oil on panel (arched), 58,8 x 34,1 cm
Galleria Doria Pamphilj, Rome

In the inventory of Cardinal Pietro Aldobrandini's paintings compiled by Giovanni Battista Agucchi in 1603, a double-sided picture is mentioned, with a Nativity on one side and a Madonna on the other. In 1638 the painting was left by Ippolito Aldobrandini to his only niece Olimpia, who had married for a second time to Camillo Pamphilj senior. In a list of the same property made prior to 1665, the work is recorded as still being in one piece, "with gilded frame at the front of the Parmigianino [and] with a pedestal covered with crimson velvet and gold trimming." The work was obviously held in high regard, and probably intended, from the outset, for use as a small altar for private devotion.

The votive picture was still in this state in 1709 and only subsequently split into two separate parts. Before this investigation of the archives was carried out, the two pictures had been considered two separate works intended as companion pieces. Curiously, in 1603 Cardinal Pietro Aldobrandini's collection contained another small Nativity surrounded by angels, also by Parmigianino but not the same as the one here.

This delightful example of sacred painting with its curved and supple lines, in which the Madonna with her hands joined in moving and gentle spirituality and the Child with a dove perched on an open book, undoubtedly inspired by Correggio, are set against a background of trees stirred by a light breeze, probably dates from around 1525. It would therefore have been painted at the time of the Fontanellato frescoes, that is prior to the artist's stay in Rome.