In the year 2007 a new documentation and study centre was dedicated to the life and work of the correggese painter Antonio Allegri, known as the Correggio Art Home.
The centre is a modern, functional building housing all information, data, news, publications, documents and images regarding the famous Renaissance artist and offers an academic section and spectator activities based a multimedia productions. It is located in the restored birth house of Antonio Allegri in Via Borgovecchio at number 39.
Antonio Allegri known as “Correggio”
Antonio Allegri (1489 – 1534), known as “Correggio” was born in Correggio in 1489, a date which as been substantially confirmed by recent studies. Although documentation on the painter’s early career is scarce, it is certain that he had a strong humanistic education and was well aware of contemporary artistic activity. After an apprenticeship, probably in Modena under Bianchi Ferrari, his first period of growth was in Mantua in direct contact with Andrea Mantegna. To elements of Mantegna’s style, which he paid homage to in several of his youthful works, Allegri intelligently added influences from Leonardo’s work, especially in his emotional use of sfumato and in the tenderness of his faces and figures. His outstanding cultural openness allowed him to be creatively influenced by artist from Venice, Ferrara and by such greats from the noth as Dürer and Altdorfer. He would also soon have critical contact with the work of Raphael and the great Michelangelo. In “ Lives of the Artist” (1550 – 1568), Giorgio Vasari, Correggio first biographer, attributed the painter with the merit of inaugurating “ Modern Mannerism” in Lombardy and evoking “stupendous wonder” with his work . In reality, Allegri fervently and vivaciously developed a pictorial language that was one of the most original of the 1500s and which was a source of inspiration trough out the following eras. Along with his hometown of Correggio, Allegri worked in other city of the Padana plain in northern Italy, namely Mantua, Modena, Reggio Emilia and Parma. In the latter city, he manifested his extraordinary expressive renewal of Italian renaissance art, which is now fully recognised by critics. His painting style exhibited great freshness, tenderness and a very daring use of perspective, which won over observers with its delicate colouring and naturalness. While this characteristics are most evident in his frescoes of the Cathedral and the Church of St. John the evangelist in Parma, they actually, permeated his entire artistic production. Today, Correggio’s fame and value are undisputed. His works hang in major European and North American museum, such as the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, the Louvre in Paris, the National Gallery in London, the Metropolitan Museum in New York, the Galleria Borghese in Rome, the Uffizi in Florence, the National Gallery in Washington, the Kunsthistorische Museum in Wien, the Prado in Madrid, and finally, the great collection in the Galleria Nazionale in Parma. The revolutionary genius of Antonio Allegri continues to captivate and enchant the public at large.
Correggio’s Birth House
The Allegri Family lived in the Borgovecchio quarter of Correggio, where Giacomo had bought a house in 1446, which Antonio later modestly enlarged in 1529. Pomponio, son of the “divine painter” sold the building in 1550. After that, the house changed owners and uses many times but his historical value remained widely recognised by the city and his people. Padre Sebastiano Resta, the famous academic and collector, come to visit the house during a pilgrimage from Rome in 1690, accompanied “by seventeen erudite citizens”. He wrote about his structure and his exact location “ alla fine del portico longo, allo spalto delle mura della città”. That position, facing onto the city walls with an unostrubcted area on the east side, gave the artist’s studio great exposure to northern light, which was essential to painting. Although the house suffered great misuses and neglect over the years, it had always been loved by the townspeople and was finally bought by a group of twenty-one citizens in 1854 and given to the city of Correggio in 1880 along with the surrounding land. That same year saw the honouring of the great master with the erection Vela’s statue, the placing of a commemorative plaque on the house and addition of a garden to the property, in which a commemorative stone was placed. A half a century later, in an effort to restore dignity to the house, the town nursery school was moved there in 1931 and remained there until 1964. In the decades that followed, it housed public offices and, more recently, cultural associations including the Fondazione “Il Correggio”. After his major restoration from 2006 to 2007 the building is now home to the Fondazione “Il Correggio” and the documentation centre on Allegri called the “Correggio Art Home”. Today, Correggio’s Birth house embarks on a new phase of his extraordinary life and has “ virtually” reclaimed the works, the presence and the voice of the great Antonio.
The academic section is the heart of the Correggio Art Home as well as the worldwide depository of knowledge on Antonio Allegri.
It consist of an online database of bibliographies and images where visitors can find all publication sorted by subject and their location in worldwide libraries. Visitors can view images of Correggio’s artwork, including the detached frescoes and the great dome in Parma, and consult related critical writings. The database also contains images of artwork by Allegri’s contemporaries for comparison and bibliographical citations for consultation. The analyses of the works, which include technical data, critiques, notes on historical events and iconographic descriptions, were written by Maddalena Spagnolo, an academic expert and author of a book published by the Fondazione Il Correggio in 2006.
The academic section has a library in which all print material published on Correggio is conserved. Having started with the existing collection of the Fondazione, it will be amplified over time with publications available on the market and rare or out of print editions.
The objective of the Correggio Art Home is to design and provide teaching activities regarding Antonio Allegri’s life and work for all levels of schooling as well as the general public.
The documentation centre on Antonio Allegri has created a room fitted with screens and cutting-adge audio- visualtechnology for viewings of multimedia products in a fully immersed context with high emotional impact, where spectators can learn about Correggio through a multisensory experience. It is a place where works of art come to life and visitors are taken by the hand on a guided tour through an interactive “experience” that is an alternative to traditional teaching methods and invokes different points of view. To this end, three films have been created for viewing in this room:
- Meeting Antonio Allegri, Correggio’s studio is the starting point of this” Theatrical presentation” in which the artist himself takes the spectator into a “virtual gallery” that presents his most important works both in sweeping views and intimate details. It is a true look into the past, one that could never be duplicated in real life, where the painter, in all his modesty – attested to many times by Vasari – talks about himself and his career. The overall effect of the images, music, dialogues and 16th century atmosphere takes the audience by the hand on a fascinating journey through the works and themes of Allegri’s art.
- Discovering the “Camera di San Paolo” in Parma, This multimedia film begins with a satellite view of the world and then zooms in to the city of Parma and the location of the monastery that houses the room frescoed by Correggio and finally to an image of the artist himself. After virtually entering the room, a narrator describes the frescoes as the three dimensional space slowly turns to show them. After viewing the entire tour, the spectator can interact by zooming in on details, zooming out for a wide view or reading the additional information.
- A journey back in time: the Churches of St. Francis and St. Mary in Correggio lifetime, In this video, visitors can experience a three dimensional reconstruction of two churches in Correggio.St. Mary of Mercy and St. Francis, as they appeared in the period in which Antonio Allegri lived. Virtual visitors can walk through the churches, observe their dècor and architectonic features and stop to admire the details and Correggio’s paintings, now hanging in important museum worldwide, which have been virtually placed back in their original locations. It is also possible to read descriptive and analytical files regarding works presented.
The multimedia presentations can be viewed either as films in the experience room or on computers in browsable programs containing additional images, historical notes and critical comments.
Allegri landmarks in Correggio
A visit to the historic centre of Correggio will bring one to the Correggio Art Home and to other places known as “Allegri landmarks”, which have been historically associated with the life and work of Antonio Allegri.
- Monument to Antonio Allegri, The monument is a twice life-size statue sculpted in white Carrara marble by Vincenzo Vela from Ticino, thanks to a bequest of ten thousand liras from the correggese painter Luigi Asioli. With the erecting of the monument to Allegri in 1880, the City of Correggio restored dignity to an artist who was and is one of his most famous sons. For the occasion, the municipality had decided to create a new square to host the noble statue by demolishing the existing late-medieval quarter and then to give a more dignified appearance to the entire area by restoring the facades of all the surrounding buildings.
- Church of St. Francis, The church, which was built in the late Lombard gothic style between the late 1400s and the last quarter of the 1500s, was the burial place of the Da Correggio family and the painter Antonio Allegri. Two important work by the young Correggio hung there: The altarpiece of the main altar, entitled the “Madonna of St. Francis” (now in the Uffizi in Florence). Correggio received the commission for the “Madonna of St. Francis” from a Franciscan prior in 1514 following a bequeath made by Quirino Zuccardi. He chose to depict the Madonna and child enthroned amongst St. Anthony of Padua, St Francis, St. Catherine of Alexandria and St. John the Baptiste. The altarpiece was completed in 1515 and remained on the church’s main altar until 1663, when Duke Francesco I d’Este had it surreptitiously removed in the middle of the night.
- The “Rest on the flight into Egypt with St. Francis, was executed by Antonio Allegri, presumably around 1520, on a commission from Francesco Munari of Correggio. The subject of the painting is taken from the apocryphal gospels and is quit original. It depicts the holy family during their rest in the desert at the moment in which St. Joseph is offering the Christ Child some dates that he has picked from a palm tree. The work contains images of great symbolic significance including the unusual addition of the saint from Assisi.
- Church of St. Mary of Mercy, In the 1500s, at least two of Correggio’s masterpieces were located on the altars of St. Mary of Mercy , which along with his annexed hospital was the religious heart of the popular quarter of Borgovecchio, where the painter lived. The church was built by a longstanding confraternity, an association of lay brothers, which had filled it with magnificent religious furnishing over the centuries. Both the “Humanity of Christ” triptych and the “Four saints” altarpiece had hung there. The triptych was probably painted by Antonio Allegri around 1525. Almost a century later, in 1613, the confraternity sold it to Siro d’Austria, a lord of Correggio. Today, of the central panel portraying Christ, there exist only a copy in the Vatican Gallery in Rome; we know of the St. Bartholomew panel through a copy; while the original panel portraying St. John the Baptist may, according to some academics, be in private British collection. The history of the “Four Saints” commissioned through a bequeath made by Melchiorre Fassi of Correggio, is more certain. The altarpiece was probably painted by Allegri circa 1516-1517 and hung in the church until 1776. In the early 1800s , the work was part of Baron Ashburton’s collection in London. In 1912, it entered the Metropolitan Museum of art in New York, where it still hangs to this day.
- Burial (St. Francis Lapidary Museum), Of the many mysteries surrounding the figure of Antonio Allegri, that of his burial site remains the most fascinating. For centuries, the painter’s remains have been the subject of a series of misplacements, rediscoveries and false identification. Today, the only remaining tangible trace is a small commemorative stone that Don Girolamo Conti has placed on his tomb in 1647 while it was still in the church of St. Francis, which was the burial place of the Allegri family.