The Nativity by Correggio

The Nativity by Correggio (1530)

The name of many painters derives from their place of birth.  Today’s featured artist is no exception.  Antonio Allegri was born around 1490 in the Italian town of  Correggio, a small town a hundred miles south-east of Milan.  Little is known about Correggio’s early life or his artistic training except that his father was a merchant and he may have initially trained under his uncle the painter, Lorenzo Allegri.  When he was seventeen an outbreak of the plague forced him and his family to leave Correggio and move to Mantua. 

During his lifetime his artistic reputation was unexceptional but after his death his works of art were appreciated more and the influence he had on art was acknowledged.  Art historians believe his work was influenced by Andrea Mantegna, who had a studio in Mantua and maybe the two men encountered each other.  Correggio completed numerous altarpieces and small devotional works but his major work was to start when he was just twenty five years of age,

In 1514 he went to Parma and in 1522 he was contracted to paint the fresco of the Assumption of Our Lady on the central cupola of the cathedral.  It took him eight years to complete this major work.  However the fresco of the Virgin Mary ascending to heaven through a sea of limbs was not well received by the officials of the cathedral  with one priest stating that the fresco reminded him of a “stew of frogs’ legs” and it also met with bemusement from the public.  However, later, after Correggio’s death, this domed fresco was to be considered highly influential on the development of Baroque dome painting.  Whether it was due to the criticism at the time of this fresco or the death of his young wife but he became very depressed and returned to his birthplace were, at the young age of thirty six, he died.

As today is Christmas Day I thought my offering should be connected to the feast of Christmas and so have chosen The Nativity by Correggio.  It can be found in the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister in Dresden.  The work of art was commissioned by Alberto Pratoneri for his family chapel in the church of St. Prosper of Reggio Emilia.  Correggio finished the work in 1530.  In 1640 it was moved to Modena and a century later to Dresden.  This painting was described as one of the first monumental nocturnal scene in European painting.  Correggio used a style and interpretation similar to that of some of Titian’s works.  The scene is fully à la chandelle with the light appearing to both bathe and emanate from the Child Jesus.  The Virgin Mary looks lovingly down at the Child as she cradles Him.  Looking on are the shepherds and St Joseph whilst up above in the clouds are the angels.