Correggio 1489–1534 Italian Painter

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Italian painter

Antonio Allegri, known as Correggio after the town where he lived, was one of the most influential artists of his generation. His dramatic paintings of religious and mythical themes appeal powerfully to the senses. His style played a significant role in the development of Baroque* art.

Little is known of Correggio's early life and career. However, his work reflects the styles that first developed in northern Italy in the late 1400s and the influence of such Italian Renaissance artists as Andrea Mantegna, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, and Michelangelo.

Art historians believe that Correggio spent some of his early career in the Italian city of Mantua, decorating church walls with frescoes*. Only two of Correggio's works from this period survive. Both are altarpieces* the artist created for churches in his hometown between 1514 and 1517. The delicate quality of the facial expressions in these pieces and the painter's careful use of color hint at the style of his later work.

Correggio moved to Parma, Italy, around 1518. One of his first projects in Parma was a series of frescoes for the monastery of San Paolo. The paintings in the private chamber of the abbess* are masterful illusions, transforming the space into a lifelike scene out of ancient mythology. He also painted frescoes in the church of San Giovanni Evangelista and the cathedral of Parma. These works focus on important events and figures in Christianity, such as the deaths of saints and the Virgin Mary's entry into heaven.

Correggio spent more than a decade in Parma. His paintings from this period are vivid and dramatic. One hallmark of his style is the use of foreshortening, a technique that involves changing the body proportions of figures to make them appear as though they are projecting upward into space. Correggio's figures are often powerfully built, their gestures are bold, and their faces express great emotion. In Adoration of the Shepherds, an altarpiece he created for a church in Dresden, a servant turns away in awe from the glory of the infant Christ, while a donkey strains eagerly toward the holy child.

Around 1530 Correggio left Parma and returned to his hometown. His late works deal largely with mythical subjects, and they focus less on spiritual joy and more on physical pleasure. The masterpiece of these years was a series of four paintings called the Loves of Jupiter, created for the duke of Mantua. Powerfully sexual, they mirror Correggio's earlier works in appealing directly to the senses. Correggio's emotional style, complex arrangement of objects, and vivid use of color all contributed to the Baroque style of the 1600s.

(See alsoArt in Italy. )

* Baroque

artistic style of the 1600s characterized by movement, drama, and grandness of scale

* fresco

mural painted on a plaster wall

* altarpiece

work of art that decorates the altar of a church

* abbess

female head of an abbey or convent

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Correggio 1489–1534 Italian Painter

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