Giovan Battista Cima da Conegliano Sleeping Endymion


Complesso Monumentale della Pilotta


1505 - 1510


250 x 240 mm



historical period


Exhibit Artwork

Artwork Details

Endymion, a character from Greek mythology, is a young man whose stories were narrated by Latin poet Ovid in the Metamorphoses. Handsome mortal Endymion had attracted Selene (or Diana), daughter of Jupiter, who, in order to enjoy the splendor of the young man every day, asked his father to make his beauty immortal. Jupiter fulfilled his daughter’s wish and made Endymion fall into a deep sleep that made him young eternally. Enamored Selene visited her beloved man every night, who was sleeping unaware that he was enchanted in a cave near Milo. Selene’s love for Endymion thus became eternal. Cima depicts the myth of Endymion in a small round painting, where you can see a green forest with trees and flowers of various species and animals, also asleep, such as a dog, a rabbit, two ducks and a deer, symbol of Selene/Diana, around the sleeping young man. Endymion is a boy with curly blond hair, and he is in a deep sleep. He is laying down with his right arm under his head, leaning against a green knoll. The other arm lies on the side of his body, covered by a large red cloak, under which you can see military-style clothing. The light that illuminates the small painting is clear and serene, but the night is already falling: the mountains in the background are darkening and a crescent moon can be seen behind the branches of the trees. The moon is Selene who is coming to find her loved one. The figure is completely immersed in the landscape, which the painter describes with great realism, by not representing the ideal scenery, but the countryside of the Veneto region where he grew up. The round painting reflects well the Renaissance taste for its subject taken from classical mythology and its setting in a lush and beautiful nature, and it has a pendant that represents the Judgement of Midas, also preserved at the National Gallery of Parma. The two round paintings were probably commissioned by canon Bartolomeo Montini, for whom Cima had already worked in the family chapel of the cathedral of Parma. The two paintings were probably intended for the decoration of a wedding chest or a musical instrument with a keyboard. It was later owned by Scipione Dalla Rosa, a collector from Parma, Montini’s descendant and patron of Correggio, who he introduced to Abbess Giovanna da Piacenza, who then commissioned the famous room in the former monastery of San Paolo to the painter. In 1851 the still fragmented Italian state purchased the entire collection from Marquises Ludovico and Pier Maria Dalla Rosa Prati, Scipione’s heirs, and placed it in the Academy of Fine Arts of Parma, for the use of professors and students. In the 19th century the paintings were in the collection of the Prati family, where they had arrived through the marriage between Anna Maria Prati and Pier Maria Dalla Rosa, and they appear in the inventories of the assets of a family member, Federico Prati, where the round paintings are attributed to “Andrea del Sarti”. In 1856 the works were moved to the National Gallery of Parma.

Artist Details

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The first documented trace related to the artist is a valuation of Conegliano from 1473, where the painter, who was about fourteen years old, in named as “Joannes cimator”.
However, there is no information about his education, but his first known work is from 1489, the year from which we can reconstruct, although not completely, his artistic and biographical path. In that period, Giovan Battista moved to Venice, where he opened his own rather successful workshop, according to the registered payments for paintings and altarpieces that were sold between the last decade of the 15th century and the early 16th century.

Between 1500 and 1515 Cima updated his artistic and figurative knowledge during a long stay in Parma, Bologna and Carpi, where he brought the strongly classicist Venetian style with large figures and contained poses. The artist depicted peaceful landscapes on the backgrounds, which were among the first not idealized landscapes in painting. In fact, the painter used to represent real backgrounds, such as those of the countryside in Treviso, where he was from. In Emilia Giovan Battista painted the altarpiece with Madonna and Child Between Saints Andrew and Archangel Michael (1505) for the church of Annunciata outside the city walls of Parma, and the Sacred Conversation (1513), preserved today at the Pinacoteca di Brera in Milan.

His majestic works with monumental and classical architectures are greatly influenced by the later works of Giovanni Bellini, who was perhaps his teacher, but also by the works of other Venetians, such as Giorgione da Castelfranco, Marco Palmezzano and even before them Alvise Vivarini and Vittore Carpaccio.
Cima da Conegliano specialized in sacred subjects in polyptychs, triptychs and large altarpieces and he mainly depicted the Virgin in various moments, often with the Child and Saints or in Sacred Conversations.
He died in Conegliano, where he used to spend summers, in 1517. His house is now a museum which mainly houses archaeological finds of Conegliano area as well as photographs of Cima’s famous paintings, preserved in the most important Italian and foreign museums.

Collection Details

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The construction of Palazzo della Pilotta started in 1583 for the order of the duke of Parma and Piacenza, Ottavio Farnese, who entrusted the task to architect Francesco Paciotto from Urbino. The name Pilotta derives from the game pelota, played by Spanish soldiers in the courtyard of Guazzatoio.

Today, the building holds the museum of archeology, national gallery, Palatine library, Farnese theater, and the Bodonian museum as well as the Accademia Nazionale di Belle Arti, the artistic lyceum of Paolo Toschi, the Department of Cultural Heritage and Performing Arts of the University of Parma.

After the extinction of the Farnese dynasty their collection was moved to Naples by Charles III of Spain in 1734. Pilotta remained without its artistic treasures until the duke Philip of Spain arrived in Parma in 1749. The son of the king of Spain and his wife Louise Elizabeth, the favorite daughter of the king Louis XV of France. At this occasion, Pilotta became a cultural center, a real symbol of the enlightenment and the French politics. Accademia di Belle Arti was founded in 1757 and a new artistic collection was created, from which will originate the Galleria Nazionale. The Palatina library (1769) and archaeological museum (1769) were added to the complex.

During the years of the restoration, under the duchy of Marie Louise of Austria (1816-1847) the cultural institutions of the Pilotta underwent considerable transformations. The halls of representation of the court were rearranged and the façade of the Palazzo was remade between 1833 and 1834, creating its elegant neoclassical character. Th task was entrusted to the architect Nicola Bettoli and the aim was to giver greater dignity to the ducal residence.

During the 1944 bombardments the building was severely damaged and from this point began a series of restoring interventions renovating the interiors, which became suitable to host the Galleria Nazionale, starting from 1991. The collection includes La Scapiliata by Leonardo da Vinci, the Turkish Slave and the Mystical Marriage of St. Catherine by Parmigianino, Correggio’s Madonna of St. Jerome and the Lamentation Over the Dead Christ, Guercino’s Susanna and the Elders and a view by Canaletto.