The religious theme is one of the most popular ones presented in the works of the famous artists of Italian Renaissance. There are a lot of frescoes and paintings which reflect different religious scenes and are used for decorating the most important chapels and cathedrals in Europe. The theme of the Assumption of the Virgin is portrayed by many artists.
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Nevertheless, today critics consider Antonio da Correggio’s Assumption of the Virgin as one of the most prominent frescoes of the late Renaissance which influenced the works of such artists as Carlo Cignani and Giovanni Lanfranco. Correggio’s Assumption of the Virgin is unique in its complex composition which represents the details of Mary’s Assumption with the help of clear foreshortenings and the perfect illusionistic elements which create the effect of the ascension to heavens.
The period of Renaissance in Italy can be considered as the revolution of the aesthetical visions of people and as the extreme increase of the development of arts1. The artistic works were directed toward people as individuals with references to Humanism, but also represented the religious aspects which were connected with the people’s inner world and beliefs.
Antonio da Correggio is one of the most interesting figures of the late Renaissance, but in spite of his great talent he was not as well-known in Italy and abroad as, for instance, Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci because his activity was not developed in central towns of the country2.
Thus, Antonio Allegri was born in a small Italian town Correggio which gave him his second name, and he became famous for his works which are located in Parma’s churches. However, he gained the critics’ recognition only after his death when numerous successors inspired by his frescoes created their own works.
Nowadays the audience has the opportunity to admire the works by Correggio predominantly in Parma where the most interesting his fresco, the masterpiece of the religious art known as Assumption of the Virgin, can be observed. The other Correggio’s religious images and his works on the mythological theme did not become as influential and popular as this prominent fresco.
Assumption of the Virgin by Antonio da Correggio is a dome fresco which is used for decorating the Cathedral of Parma. It was worked out during the period from 1526 till 1530. This work of the artist reflects the main peculiarities of his creative approaches, and it is considered by critics as the innovation in the art of creating the vault and dome frescoes which was adopted and typical for decorating churches before Renaissance.
Moreover, Assumption of the Virgin is also discussed as the most influential point in the activity of the artist as a talented mural painter3. Correggio’s Assumption of the Virgin is known for its complex and interesting composition which makes critics, artists, historians, and the public find more and more exciting details in this fresco during several centuries.
There is the viewpoint that the composition of this religious fresco was influenced but the works of Melozzo da Forli. However, it is impossible to state strictly about the impact on Correggio because of the fact that during the period of the 15th-16th centuries there were many artists who used the theme of the Virgin’s Assumption in their works and who developed the aspects of creating frescoes in chapels4.
In the centre of the composition of the fresco Assumption of the Virgin is Jesus who is descending from heavens in order to meet his mother who is ascending to him. A lot of angels who are playing musical instruments and singing help the Virgin to ascend. She is dressed in red and blue robes and these colors help to determine clearly her figure in the composition.
The process of her Assumption is observed by the apostles. The figures of St. John the Baptist, St. Henry, St. Thomas, and St. Bernard are depicted in the fresco also as the main figures in the composition. It is important to note that only St. Bernard is portrayed as looking upwards, thus, watching Jesus’ descending. Furthermore, the composition includes such significant figures for the religious tradition as Adam, Eve and Judith5.
This fresco impresses the audience by the immensity of the vast proportions of the decorated dome and by the depth of depicting heavens on the vaults. Moreover, Correggio’s painting involves a lot of figures which are depicted with the help of clear foreshortenings which make them look really.
Thus, they can be perceived as a mass of angels and other important figures which are ascending because of guiding Mary to heavens and, thus, playing musical instruments and singing. However, if we have the opportunity to observe the fresco for a long period of time, it is possible to notice that all the figures are portrayed in detail with paying much attention to the elements of their faces and dresses.
There are different approaches to the interpretation of the theme of the fresco and to the possible analysis of its elements. Nevertheless, many critics agree that Correggio’s Assumption of the Virgin can be considered as the masterpiece of illusionistic art which was discussed as the innovation in depicting figures and representing colors.
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The figures are portrayed as inspired with the aura of the moment of the Virgin’s Assumption and that is why they seem to ascend to heavens with Mary. The depiction of these soaring figures is given in the form of tunnel, but it is full of light and leads to God’s love. Moreover, it is also necessary to focus on the details of the perfect iconography as the method to depict the religious figures. The liturgical context of the theme of the fresco is presented with the help of such method as illusionism which is skillfully used by the artist.
While comparing Correggio’s vision of such a religious motif as the Virgin’s Assumption with the paintings and frescoes of the other artists, it is necessary to concentrate on such details as the composition of the work and its color scheme. For instance, Titian’s painting which was worked out earlier than Correggio’s fresco is organized according to the composition which consists of three main groups of figures, and the whole space is also divided into three parts.
In spite of the idea of depicting the figures which are ascending, the effect of soaring figures is presented more vividly in the fresco by Correggio. And the approaches to the usage of the color scheme are also different.
Titian uses dark and intense colors when Correggio depicts the Assumption with the help of transparent colors which produce the effect of soaring clouds. That is why it is possible to say that the work by Correggio is developed according to the principles of the late Renaissance, but with concentrating on transparent effects and illusionism6.
This illusionistic approach to the depiction of the process of ascending impressed a lot of artists who tried to develop it during later periods. Many scholars accentuate the fact that Correggio’s fresco became an example for working out the other dome frescoes in the European churches which were made by Mannerists and Baroque artists.
However, Correggio’s influence on the art of his century is a rather controversial question because he was not famous during the period he was developing his works. Today critics agree that his influence on the art of Baroque as the first presentations of the dramatically-illusionistic approach to the work is significant. This impact is possible to be observed in Assumption of the Virgin by Cignani and in the frescoes created by Lanfranco.
Antonio da Correggio is one of the most interesting artists of the late Renaissance, but his works became popular with the public only after the artist’s death when the heritage of the Renaissance period was estimated by the audience and critics. Correggio’s Assumption of the Virgin is the masterpiece of the art in which the religious theme is depicted.
It reflects the innovative approach to creating frescoes as a part of the dramatically-illusionistic art the principles of which were developed by the artists later. The significance of Correggio’s activity can also be proved with the fact that a lot of his successors created their frescoes and paintings focusing on the peculiarities of Correggio’s Assumption of the Virgin during the Baroque period as an example.
Smyth, Carolyn. Correggio’s Frescoes in Parma Cathedral. USA: Princeton University Press, 1997. Print.
Stokstad, Marilyn. Art History: A View of the West. 3rd ed. 2007. USA: Prentice Hall. Print.
- Stokstad, Marilyn, Art History: A View of the West (USA: Prentice Hall, 2007), 245-247.
- Smyth, Carolyn, Correggio’s Frescoes in Parma Cathedral (USA: Princeton University Press, 1997), 270.
- Smyth, 259.
- Stokstad, 250.
- Smyth, 257-268.
- Smyth, 268-272.