Antonio Allegri da Correggio (August 1489 – March 5, 1534), usually known as Correggio, 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.
Movements: Renaissance, Illusionism, Monumentalism
[Please note that Corregio’s paintings contain nudity, if that offends you don’t read the article.]
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). Correggio’s first major commission (February–September 1519) was the ceiling decoration of the private dining salon of the mother-superior (abbess Giovanna Piacenza) of the convent of St Paul called the Camera di San Paolo at Parma. Here he painted a delightful arbor pierced by oculi opening to glimpses of playful cherubs.
Below the oculi are lunettes with images of feigned monochromic marble. 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. Other masterpieces include The Lamentation and The Martyrdom of Four Saints, 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
Let’s now enjoy some of his most celebrated works
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 half-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 those 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.