Antonio da Correggio

A gentle mind

Correggio, Antonio Allegri Da 1489-1534LIFE Photo Collection

Antonio Allegri, known as Correggio (Correggio, 1489 (?)- Parma, 1534) was a Benedictine painter: a gentle mind, fate had endowed him with good culture and a nature inclined to family affections, as attested by the sources.

The biographical notes of a simple and generous humanity corroborate the profile of an artist whose nature was well combined with Benedictine values.

The view of the garden and the bell towerComplesso di San Giovanni Evangelista

The Benedictine-Cassinese Congregation was in fact the most prominent religious client for Allegri, so much so as to affect his education.

The view of the gardenComplesso di San Giovanni Evangelista

Already active in San Benedetto in Polirone in 1514 for the doors of the organ of the Benedictine church, he then moved to Parma: his presence is attested in July 1519 at the Parma abbey of St. John the Evangelist.

A scene of the "Frieze of Prophecies" in the central nave (1519/1523) by Correggio and Francesco Maria RondaniComplesso di San Giovanni Evangelista

Already involved in the frescoes of the 'cuba', the dome, and of the ' frixaria circum around the body of the Ecclesia computed by the pilloni, archivolts and every other loco ', or the frieze of the Prophecies, which runs along the central nave.

A scene of the "Frieze of Prophecies" in the central nave (1519/1523) by Correggio and Francesco Maria RondaniComplesso di San Giovanni Evangelista

The artist's iconographic choices and the papers outline a path in the name of the Benedictines. Correggio had undertaken this path since the beginning of his career and it testifies to a strong harmony with the black monks, so much so as to suggest a bond that goes beyond a mere professional relationship.

It is confirmed by the autograph letter (kept at the Archives of Saint Petersburg, 3/267), of the painter sent to Praglia to Don Girolamo da Monferrato, president of the Cassinese Congregation.

In this letter, the artist, in confirming the deep bond with the Benedictines, declared to be engaged in Parma, as early as July 1519, in the dome and frieze of the central nave of the church of St. John the Evangelist.

A scene of the "Frieze of Prophecies" in the central nave (1519/1523) by Correggio and Francesco Maria RondaniComplesso di San Giovanni Evangelista

Another famous letter would follow in virtue of which Girolamo da Monferrato affiliated the Allegri to the order, as an oblate (1521).

The inspiration of the painter to the texts of the Evangelist (Apocalypse in particular) in the church of St John is to be understood as a choice shared with the main actors of the 16th century Cassinese circuit that involved in addition to the Emilian city a wide network of abbeys of which it will be sufficient to remember, for all, the one of San Benedetto Po.

In the tradition of a wide-ranging reflection, the painter could benefit from a comparison with many learned interlocutors and clients: a comparison of contemporary Po Valley decorative companies highlights the circulation of ideas and practices among the monasteries of the Congregation of Santa Giustina.

"St. John the Evangelist's lunette". Left transept (1519/1520) by CorreggioComplesso di San Giovanni Evangelista

The comparison reveals a constant, common relationship with the biblical and patristic sources, regularly visited by the monks, especially in the mentioned Mantuan monastery.

Gregorio Cortese, first concellerario of that convent from 1508 to 1516, then abbot, had been the refined client of the architectural and sculptural apparatus of the basilica, whose decorative layout is inspired by a program similar to that present in Saint John in Parma.

In the monastery of San Benedetto, one of the most lively and cosmopolitan cultural centers of the Congregation, resided figures destined to play a leading role in the literary and religious life of the 16th century.

Correggio, Antonio Allegri Da 1489-1534LIFE Photo Collection

Another important reference for Correggio was Isidoro Clario, born Taddeo Cucchi (Chiari 1496 - Foligno 1555): the frequent movements of the Benedictine fathers, arranged every year by the general chapter of the Congregation, led Clario to stay in various monasteries.

Parma, in particular, was one and it allowed close friendly and intellectual relations with eminent confreres, from Gregorio Cortese, his former teacher, to Luciano degli Ottoni, Teofilo and Giovanni Battista Folengo, Andrea Pampuro da Asola, Gregorio da Modena, Giulio da Parma.

Credits: Story

Works cited:
M.C. Chiusa, "Fra una sponda e l'altra del fiume: un'aggiunta per Correggio benedettino", in Studi di Storia dell'Arte 28/2017, pp. 121-140, Todi (Perugia);
G. Cadioli, "Pitture, sculture ed architetture nella città di Mantova", Mantova 1763, pp. 50-54.

Credits: All media
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