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Correggio (Antonio Allegri) (1494-1534)

( Originally Published 1955 )



Italian painter of the High Renaissance whose art combined the "disegno" (see) of Michelangelo and the chiaroscuro and sfumatu (see both) of Leonardo. Although he belongs to the generation of Mannerists, he is not one of them; instead, in his naturalism and illusionism he takes the first step toward the Baroque. In his fresco decorations especially he achieves, through daring perspectives, liberated movement of figures, and ecstatic emotionalism artistic concepts which are fundamental to the development of the Baroque. In his easel paintings the modeling may appear too soft, the color too sweet and the emotion vapid, at least for modern tastes, but there is no denying the power and inventiveness of his great decorations. Born in Correggio, the nephew of a painter, Lorenzo Allegri, with whom he may have studied, he was trained under Antonio Bartolotti in Correggio, and perhaps with Bianchi-Ferrari in Modena and Francia in Bologna. He visited Mantua and Parma, but as far as is known, not Rome. and yet he certainly saw works of Mantegna, Leonardu. Michelangelo, and Raphael. In 1514 he returned to Correggio. worked in the Palazzo dei Signoria and executed an altarpiece for S. Francesco (now in Dresden). His first great fresco commission was the decoration of the quarters of the Abbess Giovanna di Piacenza in the Convent of S. Paolu in Parma (1518). Here he produced a lovely, completely pagan idyll on the Diana theme, which is radical in an ecclesiastic as well as esthetic sense. After returning in 1519 to Correggio to be married, he settled in Parma and remained until the death of his wife in 1529, after which he returned again to his birthplace. In Parma he accepted a commission to decorate S. Giovanni Evangelista; the Coronation of the Virgin which he did for the choir dome here was destroyed in 1584 (a copy by Cesare Aretusi is in the new choir and original fragments are in the London National Gallery), but the Christ in Glory of the main dome remains in all its daring foreshortening and spirited movement, as one of the greatest monuments of Italian art. Before finishing this project he undertook in 1522 to decorate the cupola, presbytery, and apse of the Cathedral, for which he received payments in 1526 and 1530, but which he left incomplete at his death. The octagonal dome still contains, though badly damaged, his exhilarating conception of the Assumption of the Virgin, with its many tumbling figures and offcenter composition, probably executed 1526-30. Among his most famous altarpieces are the Madonna and St. Jerome, called Day (c.1528, Parma Gallery), and the Nativity, called Night (c.1530, Reggio Gallery). He also did a series of erotic scenes from mythology, full of elegant and voluptuous grace, upon which so much of his fame rests. These were done for Federigo Gonzaga of Mantua and Isabelle D'Este and include the lo and Jupiter and the Ganymede (Vienna), the Danae (Borghese, Rome), and the Leda and the Swan.



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