The Reception of Correggio's Two Altarpieces for Modena in their Confraternity Settings
This dissertation studies the ways in which Correggio’s two altarpieces for Modena, the Madonna di San Sebastiano (c. 1524) and the Madonna di San Giorgio (c. 1530), were received in their confraternity settings. Each altarpiece is examined as a separate case study in order to place it within its individual historical, social, and religious context before it was acquired by Duke Francesco I d’Este in the middle of the seventeenth century. In the introductory chapter, I consider the historiography of Correggio’s two altarpieces for Modena and discuss recent approaches to the reception of his work. The second chapter introduces the Madonna di San Sebastiano by presenting it together with the foundation legend and long-term purpose of the confraternity that commissioned it. Then, I consider the history and most likely appearance of the oratory in which the San Sebastiano Altarpiece was displayed in order to shed light on the ways in which the painting functioned to promote the corporate identity and devotional focus of the company. Finally, I examine the ways in which members of the public reacted to the Madonna di San Sebastiano, especially leading up to its acquisition by Francesco I d’Este before 1657. The fifth chapter introduces the Madonna di San Giorgio and the history of the Confraternita di San Pietro Martire. Then, using archival documents, I consider the ways in which the confraternity members incorporated the Madonna di San Giorgio into a series of distinct ephemeral displays (rappresentazioni), each of which demonstrate that they reinterpreted the devotional function of the painting according to their fluctuating spiritual needs. Finally, an examination of chronicle entries and correspondence reveals the ways in which the brothers of San Pietro Martire reacted to several requests to copy their beloved altarpiece, and provides an intimate account of how they responded to its absence after Francesco I purchased it in 1649. The dissertation concludes with a comparison of the reception of each altarpiece in its confraternity setting, in light of the availability of primary source materials. The appendices contain transcribed versions of archival documents that are examined here for the first time.