Correggio e l'antico a Roma

From May 22 to September 14 2008, the Galleria Borghese will host the first monographic exhibition dedicated to Antonio Allegri, known as Correggio, the only one of the three artists constituting the so‐called Renaissance triad – the others being Raphael and Michelangelo – to whom a comprehensive exhibition has never been devoted.

This is the third event of the “Ten Great Exhibitions” series organized by the Special Superintendent of Rome Museums, Claudio Strinati, and the Director of the Galleria Borghese, Anna Coliva.

Correggio’s contemporaries recognized him as a superb artist, the equal of Raphael and Michelangelo, and all scholars have always considered him as one of the greatest artists of all time. However, his fame has never been as widespread as that of the other two protagonists. Critics have always noted this anomaly and have tried to explain it. The only explanation may be simply that Correggio did not work in Rome and left no works on what, in the sixteenth century, was the greatest artistic stage in the world. Only the works on display there became universal models.

Sixty masterpieces – paintings, drawings, and works of Antiquity – to enable us to search Corregio’s works for an answer to a question: not if, but how much his vision of space, composition, and form changed thanks to his contact with Rome at the beginning of the sixteenth century, because his supposed miraculous provincial originality – which, especially in the nineteenth century, the local pride of Parma tried to uphold – should by now be considered merely an old legend. Documented evidence of it has never been found, but in his works there are innumerable signs of Rome and, in
effect, art historians are almost unanimous in affirming that Correggio did go to Rome, perhaps around 1518‐19.

Curated by Anna Coliva, the exhibition at the Galleria Borghese aims to invert the problem and start precisely from Rome, not only as the physical site of the exhibition, but also as an ideal comparison and the focus of the problem: to start from an absence, the lack of documentary proof, in order to confirm a presence: the idea of Rome in Correggio’s work and the distinctiveness of his interpretation of Roman “forms”.

Correggio and the Antique, therefore: because, for the artists of the Renaissance, Rome was synonymous with the antique, the new awareness of its immanence, and the vitality of classical antiquity, which only in Rome was alive and not merely the subject of academic teaching. It was the same for Raphael and for all the artists who have come here and understood it here.

It was here that Correggio was able to compare his own response to the antique with those that Raphael and Michelangelo had given and, from 1518 on, after his return to Parma, his contact with their Roman works was to give him what he needed to tackle the undertaking of the domes, a completely new magnificence, and a plasticity and monumentality that changed forever their vision.

If Raphael’s art was recognized as supreme in expressing the effects of the soul, so was Correggio’s with regard to the body. If the critics of older art assigned Raphael the palm for drawing, the one for color fell to Correggio, which meant that he was able to blend color with light as if it were wax over a fire. But these opinions are outdated. Now everyone acknowledges that, like Raphael, he was a great draughtsman, in spite of Vasari’s reproaches.

As a great Correggio expert wrote, “Can a pencil depict air?”

More than 20 paintings will be on display in Rome, with several firsts. For the first time anywhere, visitors will able to see Danäe (from the Galleria Borghese), Jupiter and Io and The Abduction of Ganymede (from the Kunsthistorisches Museum of Vienna), The Education of Cupid (from the National Gallery of London), and Venus and Cupid with a Satyr (from the Louvre) together.

These are paintings that portray mythological scenes and consecrate Correggio as an artist of the highest level. The last two paintings mentioned, which were conceived as a couple and executed between 1523 and 1525, are the only ones that, together with the world‐famous Loves of Jupiter (Amori di Giove), depict profane subjects. Of this sensational series portraying love scenes taken from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, which the Duke of Mantua Federico Gonzaga commissioned from Correggio as a gift to the Emperor of Spain Charles V, Danäe, Jupiter and Io, and The Abduction of Ganymede will be exhibited in Rome. (For reasons of conservation, the fourth painting, Leda, cannot be moved from the Gemäldegalerie of Berlin).

In addition to the works depicting mythological scenes, there are about twenty masterpieces portraying religious themes, in which the relationship between Correggio and the antique is equally significant for his choices regarding form and composition: among others, Noli me tangere (from the Prado), the Madonna del latte (from the Szépmûvészeti Múzeum), Four Saints (from the Metropolitan Museum of New York), the Adoration of the Magi (from the Pinacoteca di Brera), The Mystic Marriage of St. Catherine (from the Galleria Nazionale di Capodimonte), and the Campori Madonna (from the Galleria Estense in Modena).

These works show Correggio as a painter of affetti (what today we would call psychology), grace, color, softness, and light. He is often called the painter of difficultà: things that are difficult and cannot be depicted, because no one has been able to portray air, vapors, mist, and everything that is impalpable and elusive better than him.

It is in order to accompany visitors along this ideal journey that the exhibition has been conceived so as to make it possible to compare Correggio’s paintings with classical sculpture, highlighting his ideal sources, while the display of his works in chronological order will allow them to follow the stylistic change and the breadth of range that his contact with Rome brought into his conception. From the mythological themes to the masterpieces portraying religious subjects, the exhibition at the Galleria Borghese is the most complete monographic one ever dedicated to Correggio. The only gaps are the unmovable large altarpieces and the domes, of which exquisite preparatory drawings are present.

Read more: and
Roma, Galleria Borghese, 2008 till September 14

Amori di Giove:

Abduction of Ganymede

Other Profane paintings:

The Education of Cupid
Venus and Cupid with a Satyr
Portrait of an Unknown Woman

Religious Paintings:

Four Saints
The Mystic Marriage of St. Catherine
Campori Madonna
Noli me tangere
Adoration of the Magi
Adoration of the Child
The Martyrdom of Four Saints

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