Antonio Da Correggio – Colouring And Chiaroscuro

” Another charm,” writes Fuseli, ” was yet wanting to complete the round of art—harmony. It appeared with Antonio Laeti, called Correggio, whose works it attended like an en-chanted spirit. The harmony and grace of Correggio are proverbial ; the medium which, by breadth of gradation, unites two opposite principles—the coalition of light and darkness by imperceptible transition—is the element of his style. . . . The harmony of Correggio, though assisted by exquisite hues, was entirely independent of colour ; his great organ was chiaroscuro in its most extensive sense.

The bland central light of a globe imperceptibly gliding through lucid demi-tints into rich reflected shades composes the space of Correggio, and affects us with the soft emotions of a delicious dream.”

Notwithstanding this, his colouring was not too ethereal. His flesh-tints are solid ; he uses yellow and ruddy hues in his high lights, and greenish ones in the half-tones, but these tints were so fused into soft roundness that the flesh of his female figures and children is exquisite in its texture. He is less happy in his men, whose outlines are too round, and flesh not firm enough. In nature, as Mengs observes, “fat is of a pale colour, flesh reddish, and moisture bluish. Correggio did not sufficiently observe these effects, but his mastery of harmony and chiaroscuro was sublime, and from the effect he gives by his roundness of limb and grace of pose we must confess that, if he did not depict perfect manly strength, he certainly made the most graceful figures in the world.”

Correggio fully understood that no two things should have the same force or kind of light ; for instance, a rounded object has a luminous point and deep shadows, a flat one shows diffusion of light. Also that different poses create different effects in the same form, and, again, that the objects on the lower plane of the picture are less illumined than those in the higher part where atmosphere intervenes. Consequently he used a_ constant variety of gradations in value, never repeating the same force, either in his lights or shadows. He also had the quality of giving to every shadow a tone corresponding to the substance which causes it. One may easily distinguish in his paintings the shadow of a pink robe from that of a red one, or the shades on a fair face from those of a brunette complexion. His paler flesh-tints were not without shadow, but the shadows themselves were illumined by reflections. From this it results that there was never a strong contrast, such as Rembrandt delighted in, but a soft fusion ,of joyous light, which penetrated the whole picture without dazzling or oppressing the beholder.