Origin: Probably Italian Period: Late Eighteenth Century Provenance: Unknown Date: c.1780-1800 Panel: 27 inches x 19 inches The Whole in Frame: 32.5 x 25 inches
The eighteenth century oil on panel being a copy of Correggio’s picture in the Galleria Nazionale di Capodimonte, Naples, Italy showing the Madonna and Child with a cherub above and a white rabbit to the flank, presented in a good quality nineteenth century frame. As per the photographs the picture is in decorative but tired condition with bowing to the panel, and some losses in the form of thin running cracks. It remains un-cleaned. The frame is in relatively good condition and has a trade label to the reverse for the Chapman Brothers, 241 King’s Road, Chelsea, London who were picture restorers, carvers, gilders and frame makers.
This important business produced frames for many leading artists. The Chapman business is not well documented. It appears to have been founded by George Chapman (c.1844-c.1915?), who was recorded in the 1881 census at 251 King’s Rd, as a master gilder and picture frame maker, employing four men, with his brother, Joseph, house and estate agent, in the same household. The business worked for John Singer Sargent and Sir William Orpen.
The title of this particular picture derives from the Madonna’s dress – that of a gypsy girl (Zingarella). The infant in her lap derives from the tradition iconography of the Madonna of Humility. The presence of the rabbit is explained by the misconception in antiquity that the rabbit could reproduce without sexual intercourse. It is therefore an allusion to the Madonna’s virginity and the Immaculate Conception.
The rabbit is also a symbol of fertility and, due to its whiteness, of Mary's purity and the mystery of the Incarnation, and is also a symbol of her Virginity; female rabbits and hares can conceive a second litter of offspring while still pregnant with the first, resulting in them being able to give birth seemingly without having been impregnated.