Before leaving the Italians, let us look for the Correggios in the Lombard room, the " Mercury, Venus, and Cupid " and " La Vierge au Panier."
If one were asked to date these pictures, knowing nothing of their history, one might place them well in the seventeenth century, so highly is the art in them developed. Still more extraordinary are they for the early sixteenth century when they were executed ; and it says much for the perfection of their craft that they are still so fresh and luminous.
Leonardo da Vinci, whose art may be studied in the very beautiful " Virgin and the Rocks," wrote that a painter's line was a mathematical line and that it should nowhere be seen, for one colour began where the other ended. This fusion of the edges of the flesh with their setting is of the essence of Correggio's technique, sometimes to a point overdone ; for, although he displays enormous technical skill and great charm of colour,
VENUS, MERCURY, AND CUPID
one often misses in his work a feeling of the bones beneath the flesh, and that human grip which one expects to find in the conceptions of the greatest masters. There is an excess of softness, amounting to prettiness, in his pictures of the " Vierge au Panier " type.
For this reason, when several of his rare works are seen together they are somewhat disappointing. As a colourist and a technician he is supreme, but his lack of vigour is distracting. Such I feel would be the criticisms levelled at his picture were they by a modern. And it is incomprehensible to me that different standards should obtain for any mature works, whether by deceased or living men.