The city of Reggio is quite proud of its illustrious citizens that, for one reason or another, have given great contribution to different fields: visual arts, music, performing arts, science and literature, the history and legacy of every one of them tells a lot about the culture and essence of the people of Reggio, evolved from the Middle Age through Renaissance and Risorgimento but still alive and present in every one of us.
From the Renaissance to present times, Reggio Emilia has been the birthplace of important artists having in common a peculiar originality and an innovative style approach for their times:
Antonio Allegri, known as Correggio after his hometown, is one of the main protagonists of 16th century visual art in Italy and was indeed the most ground-breaking artist bringing Renaissance ideals in the Padan plain.
His art shows a flowing, bright and graceful way of painting, always inspiring emotional involvement with his absolutely personal style.
Breaking away from the glaring Venetian colors and from the Roman Mannerism, the artist concentrates on elegant lines and daring perspective becoming the precursor of illusionistic ceiling painting.
Unfortunately, almost every work by Correggio was taken away from Reggio Emilia by the Dukes of Modena and the Princes of Correggio’s collection was dispersed, but the city of Reggio does not forget this illustrious citizen: a copy of one of his most famous paintings “Nativity” (also known as “The Holy Night”) is located exactly where it was meant to be, in the 5th chapel on the right in the Basilica di San Prospero; the fame of this artwork was so great that artists such as El Greco and Rubens visited the city with the purpose of admiring it and Velázques interceded for the (failed) purchase of the painting in the name of the king of Spain!
By the way, original artworks by Antonio Allegri can be still admired in his dedicated Museum in Correggio, his hometown, where you can also find the Correggio Art Home, a research and documentation center endowed with an “Experience Room” and dedicated to the life and work of Antonio Allegri.
Lelio Orsi, born in Novellara at the beginning of the 16th century, was not only one of the greatest painters of the Mannerism but had a particular talent for drawing and was also an architect.
He was the Gonzaga family’s painter and was artistically educated between Mantova, where he most certainly saw the works of Mantegna and Giulio Romano, and Emilia, for his work also show the influence of Correggio and Parmigianino.
In his hometown he worked in all the building sites of the Gonzaga family, both as an architect and as a painter
His Mannerism style is very personal and remarkably visionary; moreover, following the example of Mantegna and Correggio, he managed to create incredible perspective effects.
Many mural artworks – friezes and the frescoes detached from the walls of Casino di Sopra in the 19th century – and a beautiful, delicate “Annunciation” by Lelio Orsi are homed inside the Gonzaga Museum in Novellara, situated in the very Rocca di Novellara, which second floor and loggia were designed by the artist himself!
Lelio Orsi works of art are now scattered in museums all around the world and both Novellara and Reggio Emilia bear the traces of his magnificent art.
Gaspare Vigarani was a famous architect and set designer at the end of the 17th century.
His career brought him in Modena, appointed superintendent of the ducal building sites by Francesco I d’Este, and even to the court of Luis XIV in France.
When we talk about “set designing” in that time, we really are talking about engineering for the invention of theatrical machines that served to astonish and please the public during the (mainly liturgical) representation.
Indeed Vigarani was a master at this, and his taste for creating amazement and surprise also reflects on his architectural style, baroque through and through; the church of the Saints Girolamo and Vitale in Reggio Emilia is splendid example of this, a labyrinth of corridors and stairs connecting three different spaces: two churches, one rectangular and the other circular, are connected to the crypt, with the reconstruction of the holy sepulcher of Jerusalem.
If this wasn’t enough, to implement the wonder on the 14th of September (day of liturgical Adoration of the Cross), around 8 a.m., a beam of light hit a terracotta tile featuring Christ on the Cross and the statue of Saint Thaddeus is strangely enlightened.
The life of Antonio Ligabue is and incredible odyssey, worthy of the greatest Primitivism and Naïf movement’s exponent in Italy.
Born in Zurig to and Immigrant from Veneto, he was legitimized by his step-father Bonfiglio Laccabue becoming citizen of Gualtieri where he was brought by force in 1919, when he was only 18.
There he changed his name into “Ligabue”, but he didn’t speak any Italian and was completely alone; therefore, he would live by the river Po, sleeping in hayloft and eating thanks to occasional charity.
He was called Al Mat (the madman) and Al Tedesch (the German), a solitary odd man with a great passion for colors and drawing that would pay back the people who offered him food with brightly colored pictures of fierce animals, impossible landscapes and hallucinated self-portraits.
The world of circuses fascinated him, and he frequented caravans and circus performers, painting signs for their shows.
In and out the psychiatric hospital of Reggio Emilia, he was “rescued” by the sculptor Marino Mazzacurati, who understood his art and led the world to an appreciation of his art.
Today, the artwork of Antonio Ligabue is fully recognized by the artistic community and beloved by the public.
You can meet with his bright art in the Ligabue Museum in Gualtieri, homed in one of the houses where the painter lived and worked; here, a nice collection of his personal objects, original works and copies are hosted, together with filmed documents. All material is displayed in English and Italian.
Claudio Parmiggiani, born in Luzzara and still working as one of the most important Italian artists.
Never siding with one or the other movement, he always refused to participate to the noisy debate on contemporary arts, choosing silence and written word, poetry and concept to express himself.
This is very evident also in some of his most celebrated artwork: “Delocazioni” (“Dislocations”), a work of art created with smoke, dust and wind, leaving a trace on the wall of what used to be there ( a large bookshelf, bottles, butterflies…), showing only the absence of the object.
Claudio Parmiggiani’s art and person can’t be positioned in one stiff definition, his work is completely personal.
Moreover, the interest of the artist for his birthplace is evident: in 1973 he collaborates with Luigi Ghirri (one of the most important Italian photographer, also born in Reggio Emilia) portraying for the work “Alfabeto” (“Alphabet”) different objects from the Museum of Natural History “Lazzaro Spallanzani” in Reggio Emilia.
in 2000s he also conceived a beautiful project for the city of Reggio: with “Invitation to… Luciano Fabro, Sol LeWitt, Eliseo Mattiacci, Robert Morris” he gave to the city four impressive works of contemporary art designed by world famous artists exactly for the spaces of the city where they were destined to expose permanently.