Friday, 27 December 2013
Art for Christmas (3): ‘The Vision of Saint John
the Evangelist on Patmos’ by Correggio
This morning [27 December 2013], the calendar of the Church remembers Saint John the Evangelist. As a wok of Art to meditate on this third day of Christmas I have chosen The Visions of Saint John the Evangelist on Patmos, a set of frescoes painted in 1520-1523 by Antonio Allegri da Correggio in the cupola of the Church of San Giovanni Evangelista, in Parma.
Antonio Allegri (ca 1489-1534), was born ca 1489 in Correggio, near Parma. In 1503-1505 he was apprenticed to Francesco Bianchi Ferrara in Modena, where he probably became familiar with the classicism of artists like Lorenzo Costa and Francesco Francia. His early works show the influence of Andrea Mantegna in his chromatic shading, and of Leonardo da Vinci in his use of light and shade.
These influences can be clearly seen in the Nativity (1512), the Adoration of the Magi (1518) in Brera, the Wedding of Saint Catherine in the National Gallery, Washington, the Virgin and Child in Glory and the Rest on the Flight to Egypt in the Uffizi, Florence.
Correggio may have moved to Rome at a later date, and his first major commission, the decoration of the Room of the Abbess at the Convent of Saint Paul in Parma, Giovanna Piacenza, shows how he was influenced in Rome by Raphael and Michelangelo.
Back in Parma, Correggio also painted the frescos in the cupola of the Benedictine Church of Saint John the Evangelist, showing The Visions of Saint John the Evangelist on Patmos in 1520-1523.
His other works include Noli me tangere (1518), now in the Prado in Madrid, and the Virgin’s Adoration of the Child (1524-1526) in the Uffizi.
His last works are based on themes in Greek and Roman classical mythology. He died in 1534.
The Visions of Saint John the Evangelist on Patmos (1520-1523) is a series of frescoes in the interior of the dome and on the adjacent pendentives in the Benedictine church in Parma. The scene is based on Saint John’s visions in the Book of Revelation.
The centre of the cupola is occupied by an illusionistic space based on series of concentric planes indicated by the clouds, from which the apostles stretch out. Starting from the border of the dome, the clouds thin out and open to a brightly shining Christ descending towards the floor of the nave.
The figure of Saint John leans from the drum of the dome. This part of the fresco was hidden to people in the church, and was only visible to the monks in the choir and under the dome.
In the four pendentives, Correggio painted the Four Evangelists, each coupled with one of the Four Doctors of the Church. These are:
1, Saint Matthew with an angel, coupled with Saint Jerome, translator of the Latin Vulgate Bible, depicted with a white beard and red garments;
2, Saint Mark with a winged lion, coupled with Saint Ambrose with a staff;
3, Saint Luke with an ox, coupled with Saint Gregory the Great, crowned with the Papal crown or tiara;
4, Saint John with an eagle, and coupled with Saint Augustine of Hippo.
Correggio was responsible for some of the most vigorous and sensuous works of the 16th century. But he was known to his contemporaries as a shadowy, melancholic and introverted character. He had little immediate influence, but his works are now considered revolutionary and his style prefigured the Rococo art of the 18th century and many elements of Mannerist and Baroque stylistic approaches.
Tomorrow: ‘The Levy of Christian Children,’ by Nikolaos Ghyzis.