Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Correggio (1489-1534)

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I, too, am a painter!


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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 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." Between 1514 and 1520 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. [Adapted from Encyclopedia Britannica (1911)]

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