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Correggio

Correggio

The Italian painter Correggio (ca. 1494-1534) is famous for the grace and refinement of his art. He rendered nature with clarity and gentleness, as if it were all music, and he also was a pioneer in executing daringly foreshortened ceiling paintings.

The real name of Correggio was Antonio Allegri, but he is known by the name of his birthplace, Correggio, near Reggio Emilia. He received his early training from fairly indifferent painters in his home town, but his earliest documented works, such as the Madonna of St. Francis (1515; Dresden), show him as a master who, much impressed with the monumentality of the works of Andrea Mantegna, knew how to join it to the traditions of the luminous and colorful art of Emilia. An early-17th-century source reports that Correggio worked for a time in Mantua, and several units of the decoration of Mantegna's funerary chapel in S. Andrea have been attributed to his hand.

As was true of most north Italian painters of the time, the art of the great Venetian and Florentine painters was reflected in Correggio's work. Many of his early pictures, such as the Madonna and Child with the Infant St. John (ca. 1515; Madrid) and the Rest on the Flight into Egypt (ca. 1516; Florence), show that he responded with particular happiness to the inventions and discoveries of Giorgione, Leonardo da Vinci, and Raphael. Another formative influence on his work was the engravings of Albrecht Dürer.

It is established with reasonable certainty that Correggio spent the better part of 1518 or 1519 in Rome. His later work shows that he received immense benefit from studying the works of Raphael and Michelangelo. Correggio was selective in what he adapted from their work, and he succeeded, in his most ambitious paintings, in reconciling and putting to splendid use the often conflicting lessons in the greatness of art that may be drawn from Raphael's Stanza della Segnatura and Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel ceiling.

Mural Paintings

Correggio executed three elaborate fresco commissions in Parma. The first was the decoration of the abbess's drawing room in the Benedictine convent of S. Paolo (ca. 1518-1520). Over the fireplace is a painting of Diana in her chariot. The painted ceiling transforms the chamber into an artful green bower with garlands of fruit hanging down into the room. In the ceiling are simulated niches painted in grisaille with representations of divinities and allegories which look as if they are works of sculpture come to life. Above these niches is a cycle of lunettes in which cupids, painted in flesh color, display various attributes of the hunt.

Correggio's second commission was the decoration of the cupola, apse, and frieze of the church of S. Giovanni Evangelista (1520-1524). Especially in the cupola painting he put to the test the lessons in figure drawing and architectural perspective which only the Roman art of Michelangelo and Raphael can have taught him. Correggio filled the lower rim of the cupola with a majestic array of saints joined by angels. Some of them look down on the viewer; others look up raptly at the figure of Christ, who rises toward a myriad of angels all shining with golden light. Christ not only dominates the figures represented on the cupola but with a great, exhortative, and yet fleeting gesture calls toward himself the worshipers in every part of the church.

Even more ambitious are the frescoes Correggio painted in the Cathedral of Parma (ca. 1524-1530). He transformed the interior of the immense octagonal, funnelshaped Romanesque cupola into a vision of the heavens opened for the assumption of Mary. A host of music-making and dancing angels, portrayed in the most daring foreshortening, joyfully move about the clouds and, together with a number of saintly figures, surround a core of heavenly light, toward the source of which Mary, her arms opened in a gesture of bliss and grateful response, is being lifted. The archangel Gabriel, painted very large and almost in the center of the composition, has come to greet Mary and to fly on before her.

Religious Panel Paintings

Correggio, in the period of his maturity, painted five great altarpieces: the Madonna of St. Sebastian (ca. 1525), the Adoration of the Shepherds (ca. 1530), the Madonna of St. George (ca. 1532; all in Dresden), the Madonna of St. Jerome (1528), and the Rest on the Flight into Egypt (1530; both in Parma). These works, though the presentation of their affecting subject matter is extraordinarily tender and moving, are painted, as befits their size, with a certain splendor of majesty.

In his smaller religious paintings, however, Correggio gave free rein to his lyrical imagination, as can be seen in his Christ on the Mount of Olives (ca. 1525; London). The great pathos of the kneeling Christ submitting himself with an open, giving gesture of the arms to the will of his Father is enhanced by the soft darkness of the night surrounding him and the singular gentleness and tearful beauty of his face lit up by a heavenly splendor.

When representing cheerful subjects, such as the Mystic Marriage of St. Catherine (ca. 1525; Paris), Correggio bestowed an infinite tenderness upon the scene. The picture shows us not only the happiness of a wonderful moment in the life of the saint but also brings us closer to an understanding of the simplicity and exquisite fineness of the complete and loving surrender of a noble soul to its maker. Among Correggio's other great works in this genre the Madonna of the Basket (ca. 1523; London) and the Madonna Adoring the Christ Child (ca. 1525; Florence) are especially noted for their lyrical charm.

Mythological and Allegorical Paintings

Correggio brought as much love and gentle understanding to his mythological subjects as to his Christian topics. There are six mythological paintings by Correggio, all commissioned by the Duke of Mantua but not necessarily part of the same decorative project.

The Education of Cupid (ca. 1525; London) is a humanistic allegory ostensibly in praise of the love of learning, but the beauty of Venus's fully revealed body, her enigmatic smile, and the splendidly erotic glance of her wide-open and curiously musing eyes directed straight at the beholder triumphantly keep us from paying much attention to the allegorical significance of the story.

The other five paintings represent famous love affairs of Jupiter. In these works Correggio portrayed scenes of sometimes quite absurd encounters, such as that of Leda and the Swan (ca. 1532; Berlin), with a literal accuracy and gentle delight which is, at once, tenderly amused and erotically compassionate. The most artful and affecting among these pictures is surely Io Approached by Jupiter in the Form of a Cloud (ca. 1532; Vienna), in which the cloud that softly envelops the enraptured nymph hides and yet reveals a very real physical likeness of the god in the fullness of the beauty of youth.

Correggio also painted two complex and not readily decipherable allegorical compositions for the studiolo of Isabella d'Este in Mantua (ca. 1533). One represents the exquisite tortures suffered by the man ruled by passions and vice; the other, the triumph of virtue and statecraft over vice. Characteristically the most impressive and engaging figure in this group is the cupid in the extreme foreground of the picture showing the triumph of the passions. He invitingly holds up a bunch of grapes and looks at us with an irresistibly knowing, sovereign, and vaguely malicious smile.

Influence and Reputation

When Correggio died in 1534 in his native town, he was at the height of his creative life. He left behind no students worthy of his name, and in his immediate neighborhood only Parmigianino profited greatly from the example of his work. Correggio was famous in his lifetime, but since his works, especially the great frescoes in Parma, were in out-of-the-way places, he was at first more readily praised than seriously studied.

At the beginning of the 17th century the Carracci, touched by the facility and grace of Correggio's art, made him one of their greatest heroes. As their influence rose, so did his. Correggio's art of opening up ceilings illusionistically was adapted and, to a considerable extent, vulgarized during the 17th century.

Correggio's influence on 18th-century painting was all-pervasive. When the reputation of 18th-century art declined, the appreciation of Correggio's oeuvre declined with it. And it did not rise again significantly when 18th-century art was restored to critical favor, perhaps because the exquisite grace of Correggio's style demands a greater commitment of gentleness and refinement than does the charming playfulness generally associated with the rococo.

The painter Anton Raphael Mengs was one of the most perceptive and articulate students of the master's work. In his Memorie sopra il Correggio (Opere, 1783) he wrote that Correggio arrived at a perfection of painting because "he added to the representation of grandness and the imitation of nature a certain lightness which now a days we are in the habit of calling 'good taste'; but in fact this good taste is simply the ability to delineate the true nature of things and to exclude all extraneous elements as insipid and useless."

Further Reading

There is no modern appreciation in English of the complete work of Correggio. Arthur E. Popham's magisterial Correggio's Drawings (1957) transcends the limited scope indicated by its title and probably will remain one of the best introductions to Correggio's art. It also contains a concise critical review of the most important earlier publications on Correggio. Erwin Panofsky, The Iconography of Correggio's 'Camera di San Paolo' (1961), is concerned with the meaning of the allegories in the abbess's drawing room, and it also serves as an introduction to the social and political environment of the time. Works in Italian include A. C. Quintavalle, L'opera completa del Correggio (1970), which contains reproductions of all works generally attributed to Correggio, and Roberto Tassi, Il duomo di Parma (1966), a splendidly illustrated book on Correggio's ceiling paintings in the the Cathedral. □

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Correggio (Antonio Allegri; 1489/94–1534)

CORREGGIO (Antonio Allegri; 1489/941534)

CORREGGIO (Antonio Allegri; 1489/941534), Italian painter and draftsman. In the sixteenth century, Giorgio Vasari hailed Antonio Allegri (called Correggio) in his Lives of the Artists (1550), as the first Lombard artist to paint in the modern style. Although he worked in north Italian towns, such as his native Correggio and nearby Parma, rather than major artistic centers, he had a tremendous impact on later pictorial developments. His theatrical illusionism, rich coloring, and feathery brushwork were so widely imitated in the seventeenth century that he is often considered a precursor to the baroque.

Correggio's early career remains largely undocumented, including his year of birth (debated, c. 1489/c. 1494). He presumably learned the rudiments from his uncle Lorenzo Allegri and the Modenese painter Francesco Bianchi Ferrari, but found his first true inspiration in Andrea Mantegna (14311506). The convincing attribution of frescoes in Mantua (roundels from the church of Sant'Andrea, now in the Museo Diocesano) to the young Correggio supports a direct connection with this master and his workshop. The Madonna of Saint Francis (15141515; Dresden, Gemäldegalerie), Correggio's earliest extant documented picture, reveals the formative influence of Leonardo as well as Mantegna.

In Parma, around 15181519, Correggio decorated for Abbess Giovanna da Piacenza a small room in the Benedictine convent of San Paolo. The frescoes in the so-called Camera di San Paolo depict Diana, the goddess of chastity and the chase, and transform the ceiling into a verdant trellis populated by boisterous putti with hunting accoutrements. The unity of design, with its vocabulary of classicizing and more monumental forms, heralds the artist's mature style. Despite Vasari's claim that Correggio never traveled to Rome, it is now generally assumed, on stylistic grounds, that he took at least one such trip, probably before painting this chamber (c. 1518).

Correggio's success with the Camera di San Paolo soon led to other work in Parma, including two major fresco programs. In 1520, Correggio was commissioned to paint the dome, apse, and choir, followed by the nave frieze, of the Benedictine church of San Giovanni Evangelista, a project that occupied him (and his assistants) for four years (he received his final payment in January 1524). The Vision of Saint John the Evangelist on Patmos (c. 1522), depicted in the cupola, is indebted to both Michelangelo (Sistine Chapel ceiling, 15081512) and Raphael (Transfiguration, c. 15191520).

In November 1522, Correggio secured a contract for a vast campaign of mural decoration in Parma Cathedral, which he began some years later, but only partly completed (cupola and pendentives, c. 15241530). The dizzying illusionism of the cupola frescoes, in which a whirlwind of foreshortened angels and saints accompany the Virgin's Assumption, served as a fundamental point of reference for later experiments in baroque ceiling decoration.

Throughout his career, Correggio painted easel pictures of religious and mythological themes, but apparently few portraits. The altarpieces he made for patrons in Parma and nearby towns during the 1520s and 1530s reveal his ability to create poetic, strikingly original compositions. For example, the Adoration of the Shepherds (so-called Notte, contracted 1522, finished by 1530; Dresden, Gemäldegalerie) is a dramatic yet intimate nocturnal scene, in which a radiant infant dazzles the onlookers. No less inventive, if very different in subject matter, are the Loves of Jupiter commissioned by Federigo Gonzaga as a gift for Emperor Charles V. Correggio's sensuous handling of paintas in the vaporous gray cloud enveloping the pearly nymph in Jupiter and Io (c. 15301534; Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum)heightens the erotic content.

Although he applauded Correggio's unrivaled use of color, Vasari pointed out (perhaps unfairly) the artist's inadequacy in drawing. His designs can be untidy in appearance, but others are extraordinarily beautiful in their coloristic effects. Moreover, Correggio's known graphic oeuvre suggests that he probably drew compulsively in the planning of his paintings, producing numerous preliminary sketches, of which a mere fraction have survived.

Vasari described Correggio as, literally, self-effacing and noted that his likeness could not be found to illustrate the Lives. The phenomenal rise in Correggio's reputation in the following centuries generated great interest in his biography and art. Alleged portraits of the artist began to circulate, and the Vasarian characterization of a talented but timid provincial painter who had failed to visit Rome came under direct attack. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Correggio's prestige was second only to that of Raphael.

See also Vasari, Giorgio .

BIBLIOGRAPHY

DeVito Battaglia, Silvia de. Correggio bibliografia. Rome, 1934. Comprehensive annotated bibliography of literature on Correggio from the sixteenth century until 1934.

Ekserdjian, David. Correggio. New Haven and London, 1997. Most recent English-language monograph on the artist, with keen observations on the patronage and intended site of works of art.

Gould, Cecil. The Paintings of Correggio. Ithaca, N.Y., 1976. Standard English-language monograph on the artist; includes documentary appendix.

Popham, A. E. Correggio's Drawings. London, 1957. The most important catalogue of the artist's drawings.

Mary Vaccaro

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Correggio (1494–1534)

Correggio (14941534)

Italian artist, born Antonio Allegri in the town of Correggio in Lombardy. He was the son of a merchant and apprenticed as a painter in the city of Modena with Francesco Ferrara. He returned to Correggio in 1506 and began working on religious paintings for wealthy patrons and on commission from the city fathers of Mantua. He was influenced by Leonardo da Vinci and Andrea Mantegna in his early works, including Madonna of St. Francis and Adoration of the Child with St. Elizabeth and John. In about 1518 he went to Rome, where he studied the works of Michelangelo and Raphael, then returned to Parma, where he was commissioned to create frescoes for the convent of San Paolo. These paintings were done on the walls and ceiling of the Camera di San Paolo, the drawing room of Giovanna da Piacenza, the abbess of the convent. Depicted is the mythical figure of Diana, goddess of the hunt, and a scene of cherubs set in an arbor overgrown with fruits and vines. Correggio also painted the apse, nave, and interior dome of the church of San Giovanni Evangelista. The dome paintingknown as The Vision of St. John the Evangelist on Patmos shows Christ and other figures in perspective, looking directly down on the view and worshippers. In the cathedral of Parma the painter created an even more elaborate cupola ceiling, depicting the assumption of the Virgin Mary among a crowded scene of saints and angels. In this work Correggio drew on his study of Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel ceiling, and his own great skill at perspective, to draw the viewer directly into the complex action of the painting.

Correggio executed several majestic, elaborate altarpieces, including the Madonna of St. Sebastian, Adoration of the Shepherds, and the Madonna of St. George. One of his most famous small paintings, Christ on the Mount of Olives, shows the figure of Christ kneeling and gesturing in a setting of darkness illuminated by a holy light from the heavens. Other renowned paintings of Correggio are the Madonna of the Baske and Madonna Adoring the Christ Child. Federigo Gonzaga, the duke of Mantua, commissioned from Correggio a series of six paintings of mythological scenes, inspired by the work of the ancient Roman poet Ovid. These paintings broke new ground in their eroticism and depiction of the human form, such as in Leda and the Swan, Ganymede Abducted by the Eagle, and The Education of Cupid, which shows a nude Venus looking directly at the viewer. Correggio remained in the town of Parma for most of his life, far from the mainstreams of Renaissance art and thought in Rome and Florence. But his work was admired by painters in the years to come, who adopted his depiction of figures in motion, foreshortening, and lush scenery to create new traditions in the Baroque and Rococo periods.

See Also: Michelangelo Buonarroti; painting; Raphael

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Correggio

Correggio (kərĕj´ō), c.1494–1534, Italian painter, whose real name was Antonio Allegri, called Correggio for his birthplace. He learned the rudiments of art from his uncle Lorenzo Allegri. His early works were greatly influenced by the divergent styles of Mantegna and Leonardo da Vinci, as evidenced in the Marriage of St. Catherine (National Gall. of Art, Washington, D.C.) and Madonna of St. Francis (Dresden). Correggio's first important commission (1518) was the decoration of the convent of San Paolo at Parma. He handled the erudite allegorical program with exuberance. Depicting an impressive array of gods in the lunettes, he added a group of capricious putti (male infants) to the dome. Correggio painted many other mythological scenes including the sensual Io (Vienna); Danae (Borghese Gall., Rome); and Antiope (Louvre). In 1520 he began to fresco the dome of St. John the Evangelist, Parma, with the Ascension of Christ. A few years later he was working on his most famous project, Assumption of the Virgin, in the dome of the cathedral in Parma. The Virgin is encircled by an elaborate network of apostles, patriarchs, and saints, all emerging from the clouds. Correggio used daring foreshortening in his execution of the figures. His illusionistic ceiling decorations and his sensual, mythological paintings were tremendously influential on baroque artists. Pervaded by a sense of grace and tenderness, his paintings are characterized by their soft play of light and color. Other famous works are Madonna of St. Jerome (Parma), Adoration of the Child (Uffizi), and Madonna and Saints (Philadelphia Mus.).

See his frescoes, ed. by A. Q. Ghidiglia (1964); D. DeGrazia, Correggio and His Legacy (1984).

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Correggio

Correggio (c.1490–1534) ( Antonio Allegri) Italian painter from Correggio who worked mainly in Parma. His oil paintings and frescos produced daring (although anatomically exact) foreshortening effects inspired by those of Michelangelo Buonarroti and Raphael. One of the first painters to experiment with the dramatic effects of artificial light, Corregio is the major link between the early illusionism of Andrea Mantegna and the great Baroque ceiling painters.

http://www.getty.edu; http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk; http://www.nga.gov

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Correggio

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