The Sleeping Christ with Mary and Joseph
Bartolomeo Schedoni, Italian 1578-1615
Oil on Panel, Painted about 1600 to 1610
by Robert Anderson.
Bartolomeo Schedoni was an Italian painter who served the Este court in Moden and the
Farnese in Parma. His style was formed primarily by studying the work of correggioin
Parma. As he matured his stylistic development was guided primarily by the innovations of
He was court painter in Modena to the court of Cesare d'Este from
1602-1607. In the 1608- to 1614 period he was court painter to the Duke of Parma.
Schedoni's later paintings are noted for their stark manner of
composition. By the end of his short life he had developed a style characterized by bold
lighting, poetic feeling, and a striking use of areas of bright, almost mettalic color.
Apparantly a somewhat unstable character, Schedoni was often in jail and
ended his short life at age 37 " in a fit of passion" - possibly a suicide.
The subject is a sleeping Christ Child with a distended stomach and emphasized pouches
under his eyes. These signs have been observed to be symtoms of the plague. The mother
Mary with Joseph are seen in the upper right corner.
The painting has some similarity to the Carravaggio "Sleeping Cupid" and may
have been inspired by it. The Schedoni Child lies flat on his back with a stomach which is
much more protuberant than is natural. He lies on a stone slab which might remind one of a
burial site and may prefigure the death of Christ. On the left are Mary and Joseph in the
shadows while the light shines directly on the Christ Child.
In as much as there are three such panels in existence it is suggested that there probably
was a demand for such an image during an epidemic and that the painting was commissioned
in response to such a demand.