Corregio, Antokio Allegri Da

, sometimes called Laeti, an eminent historical painter, was born in 1490* or 1494. Being descended of poor parents, and educated in an obscure village, he enjoyed none of those advantages which contributed to form the other great painters of that illustrious age. He saw none of the statues of ancient Greece or Rome; nor any of the works of the established schools of Rome and Venice. But nature was his guide; and Corregio was one of her favourite pupils. To express the facility with which he painted, he used to say that he always had his thoughts ready at the end of his pencil.

The agreeable smile, and the profusion of graces which he gave to his Madonnas, saints, and children, have been taxed with being sometimes unnatural; but still they are amiable and seducing: an easy and flowing pencil, an union and harmony of colours, and a perfect intelligence of light and shade, give an astonishing relief to all his pictures, and have been the admiration both of his con­* The birth and life, says Mr. Fu- account of him has undoubtedly been

seli, of Corregio, is more involved in given by A. R. Mengs, in his ' Meobscurity than the life of Apelles. Whe- morie concernente la Vita di Corregio,"

ther he was horn in 1490, or 1494, is vol. II. of his works, published by Ninot ascertainedthe time of his death, cole d’Azara. in 1534, is more certain. The best | temporaries and successors. Annibal Caracci, who flourished fifty years after him, studied and adopted his manner in preference to that of any other master. In a letter to his cousin Louis, he expresses with great warmth the impression which was made on him by the first sight of Corregio’s paintings tf Every thing which I see here,“says he,” astonishes me particularly the colouring and the beauty of the children. They live they breathe They smile with so much grace and so much reality, that it is impossible to refrain from smiling and partaking of their enjoyment. My heart is ready to break with grief when I think on the unhappy fate of poor Corregio-^-that so wonderful a man (if he ought not rather to be called an angel) should finish his days so miserably in a country where his talents were never known!"

From want of curiosity or of resolution, or from want of patronage, Corregio never visited Rome, but remained his whole life at Parma, where the art of painting was little esteemed, and of consequence poorly rewarded. This concurrence of unfavourable circumstances occasioned at last his premature death, at the age of forty. He was employed to paint the cupola of the cathedral at Parma, the subject of which is an “Assumption of the Virgin;” and having executed it in a manner that has long been the admiration of every person of good taste, for the grandeur of design, and especially for the boldness of the fore-shortenings (an art which he first and at once brought to the utmost perfection), he went to receive his payment. The canons of the church, either through ignorance or baseness, found fault with his work; and although the price originally agreed upon had been very moderate, they aU ledged that it was far above the merit of the artist, and forced him to accept of the paltry sum of 200 livres; which, to add to the indignity, they paid him in copper money. To carry home this unworthy load to his indigent wife and children, poor Corregio had to travel six or eight miles from Parma. The weight of his burden, the heat of the weather, and his chagrin at this treatment, threw him into a pleurisy, which in three days put an end to his life and his misfortunes in 1534.

For the preservation of this magnificent work the world is indebted to Titian. As he passed through Parma in the suite of Charles V. he ran instantly to see the chef-d’oeuvre of Corregio. While he was attentively viewing it, one of | the principal canons of the church told him that such a grotesque performance did not merit his notice, and that they intended soon to have the whole defaced. “Have a care of what you do,” replied the other: “if I were not Titian, I would certainly wish to be Corregio.

Corregio’s exclamation upon viewing a picture by Raphael is well known. Having long been accustomed to hear the most unbounded applause bestowed on the works of that divine painter, he by degrees became less desirous than afraid of seeing any of them. One, however, heat last had occasion to see. He examined it attentively for some minutes in profound silence; and then with an air of satisfaction exclaimed, “I too am a painter.” Julio Romano, on seeing some of Corregio’s pictures at Parma, declared they were superior to any thing in painting he had yet beheld. One of these no doubt would be the famous Virgin and Child, with Mary Magdalene and St. Jerom.

Dufresnoy says of this artist, that he “struck out certain natural and unaffected graces for his Madonnas, his saints, and little children, which were peculiar to himself. His manner, design, and execution, are all very great, but yet without correctness. He had a most free and delightful pencil; and it is to be acknowledged, that he painted with a strength, relief, sweetness, and vivacity of colouring, which nothing ever exceeded. He understood how to distribute his lights in such a manner, as was wholly peculiar to himself, which gave a great force and great roundness to his figures. This manner consists in extending a large light, and then making it lose itself insensibly in the dark shadowings, which he placed out of the masses: and those give them this relief, without our being able to perceive from whence proceeds so much effect, and so vast a pleasure to the sight. It appears that in this part the rest of the Lombard school copied him. He had no great choice of graceful attitudes, or distribution of beautiful groupes. His design often appears lame, and his positions not well chosen: the look of his figures is often unpleasing; but his manner of designing heads, hands, feet, and other parts, is very great, and well deserves our imitation. In the conduct and finishing of a picture he has done wonders; for he painted with so much union, that his greatest works seem to have been finished in the compass of one day, and appear as if we saw them in a | looking-glass. His landscape is equally beautiful with his figures.

The excellency of Corregio’s manner,” says sir Joshua Reynolds, “has justly been admired by all succeeding painters. This manner is in direct opposition to what is called the dry and hard manner which preceded him. His colour, and his mode of finishing, approach nearer to perfection than those of any other painter; the gliding motion of his outline, and the sweetness with which it melts into the ground; the cleanness and transparency of his colouring, which stop at that exact medium in which the purity and perfection of taste lies, leave nothing to be wished for.

Mr. Fuseli’s opinion of Corregio may with great propriety close these criticisms. “Another charm,” says the professor, “was yet wanting to complete the round of art harmony. It appeared with Antonio Laeti, called Corregio, whose works it attended like an enchanted spirit. The harmony and the grace of Corregio are proverbial: the medium which by breadth of gradation unites two opposite principles, the coalition of light and darkness, by imperceptible transition, are the element of his style. This inspires his figures with grace, to this their grace is subordinate: the most appropriate, the most elegant attitudes were adopted, rejected, perhaps sacrificed to the most aukvvard ones, in compliance with this imperious principle: parts vanished, were absorbed, or emerged in obedience to it. This unison of a whole, predominates over all that remains of him, from the vastness of his cupolas to the smallest of his oil-pictures. The harmony of Corregio, though assisted by exquisite hues, was entirely independent of colour: his great organ was chiaroscuro in its most extensive sense: compared with the expanse in which he floats, the effects of Lionarda da Vinci are little more than the dying ray of evening, and the concentrated flash of Giorgione discordant abruptness. The bland central light of a globe, imperceptibly gliding through lucid demitints into rich reflected shades, composes the spell of Corregio, and affects us with the soft emotions of a delicious dream.

Of Corregio’s best oil-pictures, Italy has been deprived by purchase or by spoil. Dresden possesses the celebrated “Night,” or rather “Dawn” the “Magdalen reading” and a few more of less excellence, or less authentic | character. The two allegoric pictures, called “Leda and Danae,” once in the possession of queen Christina, migrated to France, and with the picture of lo, were mangled or destroyed by bigotry. A duplicate of the lo, and a “Rape of Ganymede” are at Vienna. Spain possesses “Christ praying in the Garden,” and “Mercury teaching Cupid to. read in the presence of Venus.” To the “Sposalizio of St. Catharine,” which France possessed before, the spoils of the revolution have added the “St. Jerome with the Magdalen,” the “Madonna della Scudella,” the “Descent from the Cross,” and the “Martyrdom of St. Placido,” from Parma. 1


Mengs, as in preceding note. Vasari. Sir Joshua Reynolds’s Works. Fuseli’s Lectures. See also his edition of Pilkiugtou.