ANTONIO DA CORREGGIO<br>Painter<br>(1494-1534)

I Do not leave this country from which Mother Nature, to escape the charge of partiality, has given to the world distinguished men of the stamp of those who have adorned Tuscany for so many years. Among them was Antonio da Correggio, a most remarkable painter, who adopted the modern style perfectly, and being endowed with a rare genius, of great natural ability and well trained in art, he became in a few years a sublime and marvellous artist. He was of a very timid disposition, and, at great personal inconvenience, worked continually for the family which depended upon him. Although naturally good, he allowed himself to be unreasonably afflicted in resisting those passions which usually affect men. In art he was very melancholy, enduring its labours, but most skilful in overcoming difficulties, as we see in the great tribune of the Duomo of Parma, 1 which contains a multitude of well-finished figures in fresco, where he has marvellously foreshortened the view as seen from below. He was the first to introduce the modern style into Lombardy, so that it was thought he might have done marvels and endangered the laurels of many who were considered great in his time if he had left Lombardy and gone to Rome. But not having seen any antiques or good modern works, he was obliged to follow what he had seen, and he would necessarily have done better, with greater advantages, to the infinite improvement of his works, raising him to the highest excellence.

It is considered certain that there never was a better colourist, or any artist who imparted more loveliness or relief to his things, so great was the soft beauty of his flesh-tints and the grace of his finish. In the same Duomo he did two other large pictures in oils, one being a much-admired dead Christ. In S. Giovanni, in the same city, he did a picture in fresco for the tribune of the Virgin ascending into heaven amid a throng of angels and other saints. 2 The beauty of the drapery and the air of the figures are of a loveliness which one would have thought it impossible to conceive, far less to express with the hands. Some of these figures drawn by him in red chalk are in our book, with a border of beautiful children and other decorative borders, with various fancies of sacrifices in the antique style. But if Antonio had not brought his works to that perfection which we see in them, his designs, although possessing good style, charm and masterly skill, would not have won him such a reputation as his more ambitious efforts. This art has so many branches that an artist frequently cannot master them all perfectly, for some have drawn divinely and been faulty colourists, while others have been marvellous colourists and only mediocre draughts men. This is due to a decision and practice adopted in youth, some taking up design and some colouring. But as all is learned in order to produce perfect work at length, that is colouring with design, Correggio deserves great praise for having attained perfection in his works, both in oils and in fresco. Thus, in the church of S. Francesco 3 of the bare-footed friars in the same city he did an Annunciation in fresco so finely that, when the wall on which it was painted threatened to fall down, the friars shored it up with wood andiron supports, and, cutting the wall away piece by piece, they saved it, and transported it to another and safer place in tile same convent. Over a gate of that city he painted a Madonna and Child, marvellous for its beautiful colouring in fresco, so that travellers who have not seen his other works admire it greatly. In S. Antonio in the same city he did a picture of the Virgin and St. Mary Magdalene with a laughing child near, like a little angel, holding a book in his hand. 4 It is so natural that no one who sees it can refrain from smiling, and a melancholy person is made happy. There is also a St. Jerome of such marvellous and stupendous colouring that painters admire it for this character, seeing that it is not possible to paint better.

He did other paintings for Lombardy, and for many lords, and, among others, two in Mantual 5 for Duke Federigo II., to be sent to the emperor, a work worthy of such a prince. When Giulio Romano saw these paintings, he said that he had never seen colouring to approach it. One was a naked Leda, and the other a Venus, the colouring so lovely and the flesh-tints so well done that it appears actual flesh and not paint. One of them contains are markable landscape, in which no Lombard has ever surpassed him. He also did hairs so lightly coloured and so finely polished and threaded that nothing better can be seen. Some cupids shoot arrows of gold and lead at a stone, a very skilfully executed subject. A clear and limpid stream runs between rocks, and bathes the feet of Venus, enhancing her loveliness, and it is hard to regard her delicateness and whiteness without emotion. Therefore Antonio merited every possible honour when alive and the praises of writers after his death. At Modena he painted a Madonna, 6 valued by all artists, and considered to be the best-painting in that city. At Bologna, in the house of the Ercolani, Bolognese noblemen, there is a Christ in the Garden appearing to Mary Magdalene, 7 a very beautiful thing. Reggio possessed a fine and remarkable picture, which not long ago came under the notice of M. Luciano Pallavicino, who was very fond of paintings, and, without minding the cost, he bought it as if it had been a jewel and sent it to his house at Genoa. There is another picture at Reggio of a Nativity of Christ, 8 who emits a radiance which illuminates the shepherds and those who are regarding Him. Among many ideas contained in this subject there is a woman who wishes to look steadily at the Christ, but, as mortal sight could not bear the radiance of His divinity, she puts her hand before her eyes in a marvellously natural manner. Above the manger is a choir of angels singing, so well done that they seem to have rained from heaven rather than to be the mere creation of a painter. In the same city is a small picture of the size of a foot, the most remarkable and beautiful of his works. It represents Christ in the Garden, with small figures, at nighttime, and the radiance of the angel appearing to Him illuminates the Christ in an extraordinarily true and striking manner. The three Apostles lie sleeping on a plain at the foot of the mountain on which Christ is praying, the shadow of which lies across this plain and gives an extraordinary force to the figures. In the‚distance the dawn is coming, and from one of the sides soldiers‚approach with Judas. This small scene is so well conceived that it cannot be equalled in a work of its size for patience or study. I might say much more of this artist's work, but as everything by his hand is admired by our foremost artists as a divine thing, I will say nothing further. I have taken the utmost pains to obtain his portrait, and have not been able to find it, because he did not draw himself, and was never drawn by others. Indeed he was a modest man, and felt that he had not mastered his art so thoroughly as he would have desired, for he realised its difficulties. He was content with little, and lived as a good Christian should.

Antonio was anxious to save, like everyone who is burdened with a family, and he thus became excessively miserly. It is said that payment of 60 crowns being made to him at Parma in coppers, which he wished to take to Correggio for his affairs, he set out with this burden on foot. Becoming overheated by the warmth of the sun, he took some water to refresh himself, and caught a severe fever, which terminated his life in the fortieth year of his age or thereabouts. His paintings date about 1512, and he greatly enriched art by his masterly colouring, whereby he opened the eyes of Lombardy, where so many fine spirits have been seen in painting, following him in the production of fine pictures, worthy of being remembered. By his facile treatment of hair, so difficult to do, he has taught the proper methods of representing it, for which all painters owe him an eternal debt. At their instance M. Fabio Segni, a nobleman of Florence, wrote the following epigram:

Hujus cum regeret mortales spiritus artus Pictoris, Charites supplicuere Jovi: Non alia pingi dextra, Pater alme, rogamus, Hunc praeter, nulli pingere nos liceat. Annuit his votis summi regnator olympi, Et juvenem subito sydera ad alta tulit Ut posset melius Charitum simulacra referre, Praesens, et nudas cerneret inde Deas.

At this same time flourished Andrea del Gobbo; painter of Milan, 9 and a charming colourist. Many of his works are to be found in private houses in Milan, and there is a large picture of the Assumption in the Certosa of Pavia, left unfinished owing to his death. `This picture shows the extent of his excellence and his love for the labours of his art.

  • 1Begun in 1526; left unfinished at his death.
  • 21520-4.
  • 3It is in S. Annuziata.
  • 4Painted in 1523. Both this and the preceding picture are in the Parma Gallery.
  • 5About 1532; the Leda is in the Borghese Gallery, Rome.
  • 6Probably the one at Dresden, painted in 1525 for the brotherhood of S. Sebastiano, Modena.
  • 7Now in the Escurial.
  • 8Painted for S.Prospero, Reggio, in 1522, now in the Dresden Gallery.
  • 9Andrea Solari. His brother Cristofano Solari, the sculptor, was known, as Il Gobbo, i.e hunch-back. The Assumption was painted by Andrea after 1515.

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