Sensual, baroque Correggio: the frescoes on the cupola of Parma’s San Giovanni Evangelista
Correggio (1489-1534) painted the frescoes of the cupola in the church of San Giovanni Evangelista in Parma between 1520 and 1524, taking the first step towards illusionist freedom that Baroque art would become famous for.
Expert Marco Bussagli explains that with his “Vision of Saint John on Patmos” cycle, Correggio “broke with the tradition of having an architectural element justify the presence of figures painted on ceilings and cupolas. Now saints, prophets, evangelists, Christ, and the Holy Virgin could freely hover in a constant vortex of light and color. In this way, Correggio laid the foundations for the ceilings of both sacred and profane buildings to open to the splendor of baroque skies” (M. Bussagli, “Prospettiva”, Giunti, Florence-Milan 2005).
Art critic Vittorio Sgarbi is convinced that “nothing will ever truly match the thrill of ascending to heaven like in the cupola of San Giovanni Evangelista, which was designed as a mental space for Correggio to process his creative thinking […]. The painted decor starts from an eccentric point in the left transept with a lunette that goes from the church to the monastery, representing Saint John. He is the witness and narrator entrusted with the story and the vision of what suddenly opens up above anyone entering the church: the sky in the cupola with the ‘Vision of Saint John’ […]. His celestial vision then becomes a collective hypnosis: in Emilia as in Rome, all 17th-century painters drew inspiration from Parma. Tables had turned: Correggio never made it to Rome, and instead had Roman artists coming to pay a ‘necessary’ visit to Parma, as the capital of the Renaissance from which Baroque would soon be born. Even Bernini took inspiration from Correggio and tried to emulate his sensuality in stone” (V. Sgarbi, “Nel nome del figlio”, Bompiani, Milan 2012).