Most commonly referred to as Correggio, Antonio Allegri was believed to be a revolutionary Mannerist painter of Italian High Renaissance. He was revolutionary in the sense that although his subjects were deeply religious he painted them with sheer sensuality. Correggio was particularly famous in Parma, where he also acquired his early training in painting under the Parma School.
When it comes to combining spatial setting and illusionism, it would seem that he was inspired by the works of Andrea Mantegna, who was known for utilizing such a painting style when making frescoes. Few examples of his works that share resemblance to Mantegna’s style were the Adoration of the Child with St. Elizabeth and John, which he completed anywhere between 1506 and 1510.
Before he was referred to as Correggio, a name derived from the town where he grew up in, he was Antonio Allegri first. He was born around 1489 to 1494 in Correggio, Italy and his family was fairly affluent because his father was a merchant. Correggio received his primary education under the mentorship of school masters Giovanni Berni of Piacenza and Marastoni of Modena. He had then received his advanced education in Philosophy under G.B. Lombardi, a renowned professor at Ferrara and Bologna.
Correggio came from a family of artists, in which his father Pellegrino Allegri was a painter. Thus, it only made sense that his family decided to send him to work as an apprentice for Francesco Bianchi Ferrara in Modena around 1503 to 1505. It is where he studied classical arts such as the creations of Francesco Francia and Lorenzo Costa, both of whom became his primary source of inspiration for his earliest works.
He spent some time as a journeyman in Mantua in 1506 and then moved back to Correggio to work on some commissions until 1510. It was around this time that he painted the Adoration of the Child with St. Elizabeth and John, which was an early proof to the influences of Mantegna and Costa on him. In 1514, Correggio presumably completed another set of tondos for Sant’Andrea Church in Mantua. He then again returned to Correggio to fulfill his contract for creating a Madonna-inspired altarpiece for the monastery of St. Francis.
Antonio Correggio spent a considerable amount of time in Parma, where he had also executed several of his masterpieces. He found a social circle in the company of Michelangelo Anselmi, who was an acclaimed Mannerist of his time. And not long after 1516, he became husband to Girolama Francesca di Braghetis in 1519, the 16-year old daughter of Bartolommeo Merlini de Braghetis, a military officer in the Marquis of Mantua. Girolama was a fine lady with face and grace of a Madonna yet she hides certain morbidity in her mind believing that she will die young. What seemed to be her premonition during her adolescent years became true when she suffered premature death in 1529, leaving their sons to her husband.
Shortly after getting married in 1516, he received a commission by the Hospital of Sta. Maria della Misericordia in Correggio for which he painted an image of St. Francis down on his knees before the Holy Child. However, this painting was bought by Don Siro of Austria worth 300 Ducats in 1612.
After this one, he had several small-time secular commissions by the Ashburton Gallery and a few examples include a painting of four saints on canvas namely St. Martha with St. Peter, St. Anthony of Padua and Mary Magdalene. Correggio presumably returned to Parma in 1518 as he was called upon by other art patrons.
Around 1519 was the turn of events in Correggio’s career in a positive way. He received his first major commission by the convent of St. Paul, Camera di San Paolo in Parma. He was tasked by the convent’s mother-superior to decorate the ceiling of their dining area. Under this contract, he painted a few cherubs and matched it with an oculi opening where the cherubs are taking glances from. Meanwhile, the fireplace is painted with a figure of Diana but he drew her with such complexity in the images particularly on the way he put a lot of detailed attention to the marbles. Overall, his art was considered classic that it was comparable to the religious frescoes in Rome albeit they were somewhat exotic and novel by form.
After his stint for the St. Paul convent, he went on pursuing a commission by the Church of San Giovanni Evangelista. He painted them the Vision of St. John on Patmos from 1520 to ’21 as well as other paintings that depict the life of the said Saint. In 1524, he was hired by the Parma Cathedral to decorate is dome with the image of the Assumption of the Virgin which he adorned with layers of images in receding effect. This particular work had then again shown some traces of illusionism revolutionized by Mantegna.
The Assumption fresco on the Parma Cathedral had later on influenced would-be painters like Carlo Cignani. These successful works of Correggio had a great potential of being a great source of inspiration of several future artists like even during the Baroque period through the amplifications of Baciccio and Lanfranco. These two painters for the Roman churches were a specialist of painting figures in a vortex to affect a leveled ceiling illusion on a roof-plane.
Antonio Correggio also had his own interpretation of The Lamentation, which is now considered a masterpiece. This work was far different from other Italian paintings during his time for the lambency was quite haunting instead of emulating a bright and tranquil light. Yet Correggio was never questioned by the religious institutions for this kind of interpretation. In fact, he had produced another work entitled The Martyrdom of Four Saints which served instrumental in defining the characteristics of the Baroque movement.
Not only did Correggio execute paintings, but he also had done architecture-related jobs while at Parma. This took place around 1525 wherein he was serving as a council of the 17 acclaimed architects and artists. He was involved in restoring the wall of the Church of Madonna as it suffered from cracks that when grew larger it could dismantle its walls anytime.
It was also around that year when he did some reliefs for the altar of the Madonna church as a way to adorn it beautifully. Correggio also had training in sculpture in Parma as a requirement in order to become a highly qualified and competent master.
In most of Correggio’s paintings, one would notice the introversion and melancholy of his figures. They were shadowed by dark skies or cold-colored landscapes to affect enigma. Although he did not become a highly celebrated painter in other parts of Italy like Rome or Venice at the height of his career, he was well-received by the later artists extending his legacy beyond Italian Mannerism period.
Likewise to many Italian painters, Antonio Correggio also did some mythological paintings. His most popular work of this kind was his interpretation of the Metamorphoses by Ovid. In this series of art works, he painted the Loves of Jupiter (patronized by Frederico II Gonzaga of Mantua), Leda and the Swan, Danae which he painted the figure in a gleeful manner, Venus and the Cupid with a Satyr, Ganymede Abducted by the Eagle, and Jupiter and lo.
Most of these works had been sensual in nature, which was positively received by his followers and patrons. He began working on these Metamorphoses paintings around 1530 to 1533.
In 1534, Antonio Correggio would have been staying in Borgo Vecchio but still active in painting. He even painted one of his last madonnas called The Madonna of San Giorgio and then did a commission by Alberto Panciroli in 1534, for whom he painted an altarpiece for S, Agostino Chapel.
However, Correggio’s work on the altarpiece was cut short because of his death in March 5, 1534. It was a sudden death that his father had to return the funds to the art patron in regard to the unfinished work. Correggio’s remains were buried at San Francesco Chapel and left two daughters and one son to his immediate family.