A Silver Relief of the Adoration of the Shepherds attributed to Pellegrino Tibaldi, after Parmigiani

Image of A Silver Relief of the Adoration of the Shepherds attributed to Pellegrino Tibaldi, after Parmigiani

A late 18th century silver repousse relief on wood, prepared from a model attributed to Pellegrino Tibaldi, 1561 (probably Bologna), after a design by Parmigianino.

Approximate size: 12 x 9.5 in. (including frame)

Condition: Commensurate with age. From an old German collection (wax seal on reverse). Set into a sophisticated modern frame.

Examples of this relief depicting the Adoration of the Shepherds are widely circulated throughout Europe. Many reproduce an inscription along the architrave in the scene: PARM INVENT, along with the date: 1561 (on the fractured column along the lower portion of the relief). The majority of examples are cast in bronze, with most examples being later casts. Copies are also known in wood, marble, stone, ivory, cartapesta and even painted versions, attesting to its widespread popularity over several centuries.

The relief’s author has long been debated and to this day is often mistakenly given to the 16th century goldsmith Gian Federico Bonzagna. The history of its attribution is too lengthy a discussion to review here though the most recent scholarship is due to Doug Lewis (National Gallery of Art) who convincingly places the relief as the workmanship of Pellegrino Tibaldi, operating after a model by Parmigianino. Lewis suggests this relief (along with a pendant Lamentation scene, also well diffused throughout Europe) were probably made for Cardinal Carlo Borrommeo, under whose long-term patronage Tibaldi began in 1561. Renaissance bronze expert, Charles Avery has also most recently agreed with this assessment concerning the authorship of this relief.

Rarer examples in repousse silver, like that offered here, apparently derive from a workshop active toward the end of the 18th century and beginning of the 19th century. An example appearing on the tabernacle at the Church of Santa Maria del Carmine in Milan features an inscription of 1808. An example in the Civic Museum of Brescia bears the date 1804 and another at the Castello Sforzesco in Milan is set into a wooden support featuring the date, 1792.