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Antonio da Correggio
Antonio Allegri da Correggio
Birth name Antonio Allegri
Born 1489
Correggio, Italy
Died March 4, 1534
Correggio, Italy
Nationality Italian
Field Fresco, Painting
Movement High Renaissance
Works Camera della Badessa
Jupiter and Io
Assumption of the Virgin

Antonio Allegri da Correggio, usually known as Correggio, (August 1489 – March 5, 1534) was the foremost painter of the Parma school of the Italian Renaissance, who was responsible for some of the most vigorous and sensuous works of the 16th century. In his use of dynamic composition, illusionistic perspective and dramatic foreshortening, Correggio prefigured the Rococo art of the 18th century.



Antonio Allegri was born in Correggio, Italy, a small town near Reggio Emilia. His date of birth is uncertain (around 1489). His father was a merchant. Otherwise, little is known about Correggio's life or training. In the years 1503-1505 he apprenticed to Francesco Bianchi Ferrara of Modena. Here he probably knew the classicism of artists like Lorenzo Costa and Francesco Francia, evidence of which can be found in his first works. After a trip to Mantua in 1506, he returned to Correggio, where he stayed until 1510. To this period is assigned the Adoration of the Child with St. Elizabeth and John, which shows clear influences from Costa and Mantegna. In 1514 he probably finished three tondos for the entrance of the church of Sant'Andrea in Mantua, and then returned to Correggio: here, as an independent and increasingly renowned artist, he signed a contract for the Madonna altarpiece in the local monastery of St. Francis (now in the Dresden Gemäldegalerie).

Works in Parma

Jupiter and Io (c. 1531) typifies the unabashed eroticism, radiance, and cool, pearly colors associated with Correggio's best work.

By 1516, Correggio was in Parma, where he generally remained for the rest of his career. Here, he befriended Michelangelo Anselmi, a prominent Mannerist painter. In 1519 he married Girolama Francesca di Braghetis, also of Correggio, who died in 1529. One of his sons, Pomponio Allegri, became an undistinguished painter. From this period are the Madonna and Child with the Young Saint John, Christ Leaving His Mother and the lost Madonna of Albinea.

Correggio's first major commission (February-September of 1519) was the decoration ceiling of the private dining salon of the mother-superior (abbess Giovanna Piacenza) of the Convent of St Paul, called the Camera di San Paolo (Parma). Here he painted a delightful arbor pierced by oculi opening to glimpses of playful cherubs. Below the oculi are lunnetes with monochromic marble images. The fireplace is frescoed with an image of Diana. The iconography of the unit is complex, joining images of classical marbles to whimsical colorful bambini. While it recalls the secular frescoes of the pleasure palace of the Villa Farnesina in Rome, it is also a strikingly novel form of interior decoration.

He next painted the illusionistic Vision of St. John on Patmos (1520–21) for the dome of the church of San Giovanni Evangelista. Three years later he decorated the dome of the Cathedral of Parma with a startling Assumption of the Virgin, crowded with layers of receding figures in Melozzo's perspective (from down to up). These two works would represent a highly novel treatment of dome decoration, using an illusionistic sotto in su perspective, and would exert a profound influence upon future fresco artists, from Carlo Cignani in his fresco Assumption of the Virgin, in the cathedral church of Forlì, to Gaudenzio Ferrari in his frescoes for the cupola of Santa Maria dei Miracoli in Saronno, to Pordenone in his now-lost fresco from Treviso, and to the baroque elaborations of Lanfranco and Baciccio in Roman churches. The massing of spectators in a vortex, creating both narrative and decoration, the illusionistic obliteration of the architectural roof-plane, and thrusting perspective towards divine infinity, was a device without precedent, and which depended on the extrapolation of the mechanics of perspective. The recession and movement implied by the figures all presage the dynamism that would characterize baroque painting.

Other masterpieces include The Lamentation and The Martyrdom of Four Saints [1], both at the Galleria Nazionale of Parma. The Lamentation is haunted by a lambence rarely seen in Italian painting prior to this time. The Martyrdom is also remarkable for resembling later Baroque compositions such as Bernini's (Truth) and Ercole Ferrata's (Death of Saint Agnes), showing a gleeful saint entering martyrdom.

Mythological series based on Ovid's Metamorphoses

Ganymede Abducted by the Eagle, one of the four mythological paintings commissioned by Federico II Gonzaga, is a proto-Baroque work due to its depiction of movement, drama, and diagonal compositional arrangement.

Aside from his religious output, Correggio conceived a now-famous set of paintings depicting the Loves of Jupiter as described in Ovid's Metamorphoses. The voluptuous series was commissioned by Federico II Gonzaga of Mantua, probably to decorate his private Ovid Room in the Palazzo Te. However, they were given to the visiting Holy Roman Emperor Charles V and thus left Italy within years of their completion.

Leda and the Swan, now in Staatliche Museen of Berlin, is a tumult of incidents: in the centre Leda straddles a swan, and on the right, a shy but satisfied maiden. Danaë, now in Rome's Borghese Gallery, depicts the maiden as she is impregnated by a curtain of gilded divine rain. Her lower torso semi-obscured by sheets, Danae appears more demure and gleeful than Titian's 1545 version of the same topic, where the rain is more accurately numismatic. The picture once called Antiope and the Satyr is now correctly identified as Venus and Cupid with a Satyr.

Ganymede Abducted by the Eagle depicts the young man aloft in literal amorous flight. Some have interpreted the conjunction of man and eagle as a metaphor for the evangelist John; however, given the erotic context of this and other paintings, this seems unlikely. This painting and its partner, the masterpiece of Jupiter and Io (reproduced above), are in Kunsthistorisches Museum of Vienna.


Correggio's famous frescoes in Parma seems to melt the ceiling of the cathedral and draw the viewer into a gyre of spiritual ecstasy.

Correggio was remembered by his contemporaries as a shadowy, melancholic and introverted character, traits possibly conditioned by his birth into a large and poor family.

Correggio is an enigmatic and eclectic artist, and it is not always possible to identify a stylistic link between his paintings. He appears to have emerged out of no major apprenticeship, and to have had little immediate influence in terms of apprenticed successors, but his works are now considered to have been revolutionary and influential on subsequent artists. A century after his death Correggio's work was well known to Vasari, who felt that he had not had enough "Roman" exposure to make him a better painter. In the 18th and 19th centuries, his works were often remembered in the diaries of foreign visitors to Italy, which led to a reevaluation of his art during the period of Romanticism. The flight of the Madonna in the vault of the cupola of the Cathedral of Parma inspired numerous scenographical decorations in lay and religious palaces during the 20th centuries.

Corregio's illusionistic experiments, in which imaginary spaces replace the natural reality, seem to prefigure many elements of Mannerist and Baroque stylistic approaches. In other words, he appears to have fostered artistic grandchildren, despite having no direct disciples outside of Parma, where he was influential on the work of Giovanni Maria Francesco Rondani, Parmigianino, Bernardo Gatti, and Giorgio Gandini del Grano. His son, Pomponio Allegri became a painter.

The Mystic Marriage of St. Catherine (c. 1520), Correggio's most important contribution to the High Renaissance art, exhibits Leonardo's pronounced influence on his early style.

In addition to the influence of Costa, there are echoes of Mantegna's style in his work, and a response to Leonardo da Vinci, as well.

Detail of Correggio's frescoes in the Camera di San Paolo.

Selected works

  • Judith and the Servant (around 1510) Oil on canvas - Musée des Beaux-Arts, Strasbourg
  • The Mystic Marriage of St. Catherine (1510–15) - National Gallery of Art, Washington
  • Madonna (1512–14) - Oil canvas, Castello Sforzesco, Milan
  • Madonna with St. Francis (1514) - Oil on wood, 299 x 245 cm, Gemäldegalerie, Dresden
  • Madonna of Albinea (1514, lost)
  • Madonna and Child with the Young Saint John (1516) - Oil canvas, 48 x 37 cm, Museo del Prado, Madrid
  • The Adoration of the Magi (1516–18)- Oil canvas, 84 x 108 cm, Brera, Milan
  • Virgin and Child with an Angel (Madonna del Latte) (date unknown) - Oil on wood, 68 x 56 cm, Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest
  • The Rest on the Flight to Egypt with Saint Francis (1517) - Oil on canvas, 123,5 x 106,5 cm, Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence
  • Portrait of a Gentlewoman (1517–19) - Oil on canvas, 103 x 87,5 cm, Hermitage, St. Petersburg
  • Adoration of the Child (1518–20) - Oil on canvas, 81 x 67 cm, Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence
  • Camera di San Paolo (1519) - Frescoes, Nunnery of St Paul, Parma
  • Passing Away of St. John (1520–24) - Fresco, S. Giovanni Evangelista, Parma
  • Madonna della Scala (c. 1523) - Fresco, 196 x 141,8 cm, Galleria Nazionale, Parma
  • Deposition from the Cross (1525)- Oil canvas, 158,5 x 184,3 cm, Galleria Nazionale, Parma
  • Noli me Tangere (c. 1525) - Oil canvas, 130 x 103 cm, Museo del Prado, Madrid
  • Ecce Homo (1525–30) - Oil canvas, National Gallery, London
  • Madonna della Scodella (1525–30) - Oil canvas, 216 x 137 cm, Galleria Nazionale, Parma
  • Mystic Marriage of St. Catherine (1526–27) - Wood, 105 x 102 cm, Musée du Louvre, Paris
  • Assumption of the Virgin (1526–1530) — Fresco, 1093 x 1195 cm, Cathedral of Parma
  • Madonna of St. Jerome (1527–28) - Oil on canvas, 205,7 x 141 cm, Galleria Nazionale, Parma
  • The Education of Cupid (c. 1528) - Oil canvas, 155 x 91 cm, National Gallery, London
  • Venus and Cupid with a Satyr (c. 1528) - Oil on canvas, 188 x 125 cm, Musée du Louvre, Paris
  • Nativity (Adoration of the Shepherds, or Holy Night (1528–30) - Oil on canvas, 256,5 x 188 cm, Gemäldegalerie, Dresden
  • Madonna with St. George (1530–32) - Oil on canvas, 285 x 190 cm, Gemäldegalerie, Dresden
  • Danaë (c. 1531) - Tempera panel, 161 x 193 cm, Galleria Borghese, Rome
  • Ganymede abducted by the Eagle (1531–32) - Oil on canvas, 163,5 x 70,5 cm, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna
  • Jupiter and Io (1531–32) - Oil canvas, 164 x 71 cm, Kunsthistorisches Museum
  • Leda with the Swan (1531–32) - Oil canvas, 152 x 191 cm, Staatliche Museen, Berlin
  • Allegory of Virtue (c. 1532-1534) - Oil canvas, 149 x 88 cm, Musée du Louvre, Paris

External links


1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

CORREGGIO, or Coreggio, the name ordinarily given to Antonio Allegri (1494-1534), the celebrated Italian painter, one of the most vivid and impulsive inventors in expression and pose and the most consummate executants. The external circumstances of his life have been very diversely stated by different writers, and the whole of what has been narrated regarding him, even waiving the question of its authenticity, is but meagre.

The first controversy is as to his origin. Some say that he was born of poor and lowly parents; others, that his family was noble and rich. Neither account is accurate. His father was Pellegrino Allegri, a tradesman in comfortable circumstances, living at Correggio, a small city in the territory of Modena; his mother Bernardina Piazzoli degli Aromani, also of a creditable family of moderate means. Antonio was born at Correggio, and was carefully educated. He was not (as has been often alleged) strictly self-taught in his art - a supposition which the internal evidence of his pictures must of itself refute. They show a knowledge of optics, perspective, architecture, sculpture and anatomy. The last-named science he studied under Dr Giovanni Battista Lombardi, whom he is believed to have represented in the portrait currently named "Il Medico del Correggio" (Correggio's physician). It is concluded that he learned the first elements of design from his uncle, Lorenzo Allegri, a painter of moderate ability at Correggio, and from Antonio Bartolotti, named Tognino, and that he afterwards went to the school of Francesco Ferrari Bianchi (named Frare), and perhaps to that of the successors of Andrea Mantegna in Mantua. He is said to have learned modelling along with the celebrated Begarelli at Parma; and it has even been suggested that, in the "Pieta" executed by Begarelli for the church of Santa Margherita, the three finest figures are the work of Correggio, but, as the group appears to have been completed three years after the painter's death, there is very little plausibility in this story. Another statement connecting Begarelli with Correggio is probably true, namely, that the sculptor executed models in relief for the figures which the painter had to design on the cupolas of the churches in Parma. This was necessarily an expensive item, and it has been cited as showing that Correggio must have been at least tolerably well off, - an inference further supported by the fact that he used the most precious and costly colours, and generally painted on fine canvases or sometimes on sheets of copper.

The few certain early works of Correggio show a rapid progression towards the attainment of his own original style. Though he never achieved any large measure of reputation during his brief lifetime, and was perhaps totally unknown beyond his own district of country, he found a sufficiency of employers, and this from a very youthful age. One of his early pictures, painted in 1514 when he was nineteen or twenty years old, is a large altar-piece commissioned for the Franciscan convent at Carpi, representing the Virgin enthroned, with Saints; it indicates a predilection for the style of Leonardo da Vinci, and has certainly even greater freedom than similarly early works of Raphael. This picture is now in the Dresden gallery. Another painting of Correggio's youth is the "Arrest of Christ." A third is an Ancona (or triple altar-piece - the "Repose in Egypt, with Sts Bartholomew and John") in the church of the Conventuali at Correggio, showing the transition from the painter's first to his second style. Between 151 4 and 15 20 Correggio worked much, both in oil and in fresco, for churches and convents. In 1521 he began his famous fresco of the "Ascension of Christ," on the cupola of the Benedictine church of San Giovanni in Parma; here the Redeemer is surrounded by the twelve apostles and the four doctors of the church, supported by a host of wingless cherub boys amid the clouds. This he finished in 1524, and soon afterwards undertook his still vaster work on another cupola, that of the cathedral of the same city, presenting the "Assumption of the Virgin," amid an unnumbered host of saints and angels rapt in celestial joy. It occupied him up to 1530. The astounding boldness of scheme in these works, especially as regards their incessant and audacious foreshortenings - the whole mass of figures being portrayed as in the clouds, and as seen from below - becomes all the more startling when we recall to mind the three facts - that Correggio had apparently never seen any of the masterpieces of Raphael or his other great predecessors and contemporaries, in Rome, Florence, or other chief centres of art; that he was the first artist who ever undertook the painting of a large cupola; and that he not only went at once to the extreme of what can be adventured in foreshortening, but even forestalled in this attempt the mightiest geniuses of an elder generation - the "Last Judgment" of Michelangelo, for instance, not having been begun earlier than 1533 (although the ceiling of the Sixtine chapel, in which foreshortening plays a comparatively small part, dates from 1508 to 1512). The cupola of the cathedral has neither skylight nor windows, but only light reflected from below; the frescoes, some portions of which were ultimately supplied by Giorgio Gandini, are now dusky with the smoke of tapers, and parts of them, in the cathedral and in the church of St John, have during many past years been peeling off. The violent foreshortenings were not, in the painter's own time, the object of unmixed admiration; some satirist termed the groups a "guazzetto di rane," or "hash of frogs." This was not exactly the opinion of Titian, who is reported to have said, on seeing the pictures, and finding them lightly esteemed by local dignitaries, "Reverse the cupola, and fill it with gold, and even that will not be its money's worth." Annibale Caracci and the Eclectics generally evinced their zealous admiration quite as ardently. Parma is the only city which contains frescoes by Correggio. For the paintings_of the cupola of San Giovanni he received the moderate sum of 472 sequins; for those of the cathedral, much less proportionately, 350. On these amounts he had to subsist, himself and his family, and to provide the colours, for about ten years, having little time for further work meanwhile. Parma was in an exceedingly unsettled and turbulent condition during some of the years covered by Correggio's labours there, veering between the governmental ascendancy of the French and of the Pope, with wars and rumours of wars, alarms, tumults and pestilence.

Other leading works by Correggio are the following: - The frescoes in the Camera di San Paolo (the abbess's saloon) in the monastery of S. Lodovico at Parma, painted towards 1519 in fresco, - "Diana returning from the Chase," with auxiliary groups of lovely and vivacious boys of more than life size, in sixteen oval compartments. In the National Gallery, London, the "Ecce Homo," painted probably towards 1520 (authenticity not unquestioned); and "Cupid, Mercury and Venus," the latter more especially a fine example. The oil-painting of the Nativity named "Night" ("La Notte"), for which 40 ducats and 208 livres of old Reggio coin were paid, the nocturnal scene partially lit up by the splendour proceeding from the divine Infant. This work was undertaken at Reggio in 1522 for Alberto Pratoneris, and is now in the Dresden gallery. The oil-painting of St Jerome, termed also "Day" ("Il Giorno"), as contrasting with the above-named "Night." Jerome is here with the Madonna and Child, the Magdalene, and two Angels, of whom one points out to the Infant a passage in the book held by the Saint. This was painted for Briseida Bergonzi from 1527 onwards, and was remunerated by 400 gold imperials, some cartloads of faggots and measures of wheat, and a fat pig. It is now in the gallery at Parma. The "Magdalene lying at the entrance of her Cavern": this small picture (only 18 in. wide) was bought by Augustus III. of Saxony for 6000 louis d'or, and is in Dresden. In the same gallery, the two works designated "St George" (painted towards 1532) and "St Sebastian." In the Parma gallery, the Madonna named "della Scala," a fresco which was originally in a recess of the Porta Romana, Parma; also the Madonna "della Scodella" (of the bowl, which is held by the Virgin - the subject being the Repose in Egypt): it was executed for the church of San Sepolcro. Both these works date towards 1526. In the church of the Annunciation, "Parma," a fresco of the Annunciation, now all but perished. Five celebrated pictures painted or begun in 1532, - "Venus," "Leda," "Dana," "Vice," and "Virtue": the "Leda," with figures of charming girls bathing, is now in the Berlin gallery, and is a singularly delightful specimen of the master. In Vienna, "Jupiter and Io." In the Louvre, "Jupiter and Antiope," and the "Mystic Marriage of St Catharine." In the Naples Museum, the "Madonna Reposing," commonly named "La Zingarella," or the "Madonna del Coniglio" (Gipsy-girl, or Madonna of the Rabbit). On some of his pictures Correggio signed "Lieto," as a synonym of "Allegri." About forty works can be confidently assigned to him, apart from a multitude of others probably or manifestly spurious.

The famous story that this great but isolated artist was once, after long expectancy, gratified by seeing a picture of Raphael's, and closed an intense scrutiny of it by exclaiming "Anch' io son pittore" (I too am a painter), cannot be traced to any certain source. It has nevertheless a great internal air of probability; and the most enthusiastic devotee of the Umbrian will admit that in technical bravura, in enterprizing, gifted, and consummated execution, not Raphael himself could have assumed to lord it over Correggio.

In 1520 Correggio married Girolama. Merlino, a young lady of Mantua, who brought him a good dowry. She was but sixteen years of age, very lovely, and is said by tradition to have been the model of his Zingarella. They lived in great harmony together, and had a family of four children. She died in 1529. Correggio himself expired at his native place on the 5th of March 1 534. His illness was a short one, and has by some authors been termed pleurisy. Others, following Vasari, allege that it was brought on by his having had to carry home a sum of money, 50 scudi, which had been paid to him for one of his pictures, and paid in copper coin to humiliate and annoy him; he carried the money himself, to save expense, from Parma to Correggio on a hot day, and his fatigue and exhaustion led to the mortal illness. In this curious tale there is no symptom of authenticity, unless its very singularity, and the unlikelihood of its being invented without any foundation at all, may be allowed to count for something. He is said to have died with Christian piety; and his eulogists (speaking apparently from intuition rather than record) affirm that he was a good citizen, an affectionate son and father, fond and observant of children, a sincere and obliging friend, pacific, beneficent, grateful, unassuming, without meanness, free from envy and tolerant of criticism. He was buried with some pomp in the Arrivabene chapel, in the cloister of the Franciscan church at Correggio.

Regarding the art of Correggio from an intellectual or emotional point of view, his supreme gift may be defined as suavity, - a vivid, spontaneous, lambent play of the affections, a heartfelt inner grace which fashions the forms and features, and beams like soft and glancing sunshine in the expressions. We see lovely or lovable souls clothed in bodies or corresponding loveliness, which are not only physically charming, but are so informed with the spirit within as to become one with that in movement and gesture. In these qualities of graceful naturalness, not heightened into the sacred or severe, and of joyous animation, in momentary smiles and casual living turns of head or limb, Correggio undoubtedly carried the art some steps beyond any thing it had previously attained, and he remains to this day the unsurpassed or unequalled model of pre-eminence. From a technical point of view, his supreme gift - even exceeding his prodigious faculty in foreshortening and the like - is chiaroscuro, the power of modifying every tone, from bright light to depth of darkness, with the sweetest and most subtle gradations, all being combined into harmonious unity. In this again he far distanced all predecessors, and defied subsequent competition. His colour also is luminous and precious, perfectly understood and blended; it does not rival the superb richness or deep intense glow of the Venetians, but on its own showing is a perfect achievement, in exact keeping with his powers in chiaroscuro and in vital expression. When we come, however, to estimate painters according to their dramatic faculty, their power of telling a story or impressing a majestic truth, their range and strength of mind, we find the merits of Correggio very feeble in comparison with those of the highest masters, and even of many who without being altogether great have excelled in these particular qualities. Correggio never means much, and often, in subjects where fulness of significance is demanded, he means provokingly little. He expressed his own miraculous facility by saying that he always had his thoughts at the end of his pencil; in truth, they were often thoughts rather of the pencil and its controlling hand than of the teeming brain. He has the faults of his excellences - sweetness lapsing into mawkishness and affectation, empty in elevated themes and lasciviously voluptuous in those of a sensuous type, rapid and forceful action lapsing into posturing and self-display, fineness and sinuosity of contour lapsing into exaggeration and mannerism, daring design lapsing into incorrectness. No great master is more dangerous than Correggio to his enthusiasts; round him the misdeeds of conventionalists and the follies of connoisseurs cluster with peculiar virulence, and almost tend to blind to his real and astonishing excellences those practitioners or lovers of painting who, while they can acknowledge the value of technique, are still more devoted to greatness of soul, and grave or elevated invention, as expressed in the form of art.

Correggio was the head of the school of painting of Parma, which forms one main division of the Lombardic school. IIe had more imitators than pupils. Of the latter one can name with certainty only his son Pomponio, who was born in 1521 and died at an advanced age; Francesco Capelli; Giovanni Giarola; Antonio Bernieri (who, being also a native of the town of Correggio, has sometimes been confounded with Allegri); and Bernardo Gatti, who ranks as the best of all. The Parmigiani (Mazzuoli) were his most highly distinguished imitators.

A large number of books have been written concerning Correggio. The principal modern authority is Conrado Ricci, Life and Times cf Correggio (1896); see also Pungileoni, Memorie storiche di Antonio Allegri (1817); Julius Meyer, Antonio Allegri (1870, English translation, 1876); H. Thode, Correggio (1898); Bigi, Vita ed opere (1881); Colnaghi, Correggio Frescoes at Parma (1845); Fagan, Works of Correggio (1873); and T. Sturge Moore, Correggio (1906) (a work which includes some adverse criticism on the views of Bernhard Berenson, in his Study of Italian Art, 1901, and elsewhere). (W. M. R.)

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