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Correggio

Antonio Allegri da Correggio

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Born Antonio Allegri da Correggio, he was an Italian Renaissance painter of the Parma school. His art foreshadowed the Rococo art of the 18th century with dynamic compositions and an illusory perspective. Little is known about Correggio’s early life or training. What is known is that he was apprenticed to Francesco Bianchi Ferrara between 1503 and 1505, after which he traveled through Italy painting religious works, becoming increasingly renowned. In 1514, he returned to his hometown of Correggio, and signed an agreement to complete the Madonna altarpiece in the St. Francis Monastery.

Correggio received his first major commission in 1519, when he agreed to paint the ceiling of the private dining salon of the mother superior of the St. Paul Convent in Parma, Italy. Further frescoes and paintings in the early 1520’s exhibit dynamic compositions, which evince movement that was theretofore unprecedented. This dynamism and Correggio’s use of an illusionary perspective characterized the new Baroque style.

Although his works are now considered to have had a revolutionary impact on contemporary artists, they are all very eclectic, and no direct stylistic link connects all of them in one category. Little is known of his teachings, and so it is also difficult to determine the stylistic qualities that brought forth his talents. His character as a man was remembered as introverted, melancholic, and dark. He did not have any direct disciples, but his works were highly influential on painters outside of Parma, where he lived and worked. Parmigiano, Giorgio Gandini del Grano, and Giovanni Maria Francesco Rondani all show influences of his works.

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Antonio Allegri da Correggio (August 1489 – March 5, 1534), usually known as Correggio (Italian: [korˈreddʒo]), 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. He is considered a master of chiaroscuro.

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 early life or training. It is, however, often assumed that he had his first artistic education from his father's brother, the painter Lorenzo Allegri.

In 1503–5 he was apprenticed to Francesco Bianchi Ferrara in Modena, where he probably became familiar with 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, where, 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).

One of his sons, Pomponio Allegri, became an undistinguished painter. Both father and son occasionally referred to themselves using the Latinized form of the family name, Laeti.

By 1516, Correggio was in Parma, where he spent most of the remainder 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. 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 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 an 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 scheme is complex, combining images of classical marbles with 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 then 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 (sotto in su, from down to up). These two works represented a highly novel illusionistic sotto in su treatment of dome decoration that 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 the thrusting perspective towards divine infinity, were devices without precedent, and which depended on the extrapolation of the mechanics of perspective. The recession and movement implied by the figures presage the dynamism that would characterize Baroque painting.

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