Antonio Allegri da Correggio was born in Correggio, a small Lombard town near Reggio Emilia. His date of birth is uncertain (around 1494). His father was a merchant. Otherwise, little is known about Correggio's life or training. In the years 1503-1505 he apprenticed to Francesco Bianchi Ferrara of Modena. Here he probably knew the classicism of authors like Lorenzo Costa and Francesco Francia which can be found in his first works. After a trip to Mantua in 1506, he returned to Correggio, where he stayed until 1510. To this period is assigned the Adoration of the Child with St. Elizabeth and John, which shows clear influences from Costa and Mantegna. In 1514 he probably finished three tondos for the entrance of the church of Sant'Andrea in Mantua, and then returned to Correggio: here, as an independent and increasingly renowned artist, he signed a contract for the Madonna altarpiece of the local monastery of St. Francis (now in the Dresden Gemäldegalerie).
In 1516 he was in Parma, where he become a friend of Michelangelo Anselmi, one of the main Mannerist painters of the period. He remained in that city until 1530. In 1519 he married Girolama Francesca di Braghetis, also of Correggio, who died in 1529. From this period are the Madonna and Child with the Young Saint John, Christ Leaving His Mother and the lost Madonna of Albinea.
Correggio's first major commission was the ceiling of the private dining salon of the mother-superior of the Convent of St Paul, called the Camera di San Paolo (Parma). Here he painted a delightful arbor with playful cherub-filled oculi. Although painted for the local convent, it harkens to the secular frescoes of the pleasure palace of the Villa Farnesina in Rome.
He then painted the illusionistic Vision of St. John on Patmos (1520-21) for the dome of the church of San Giovanni Evangelista. Three years later he decorated the dome of the cathedral of Parma with a startling Assumption of the Virgin, crowded with layers of receding figures in perspective. The complexity of this work, and its disruption of the architeral roof and suggestion of divine infinity was innovative. Most fresco work was framed as canvases upon walls.
Other masterpieces include The Lamentation and The Martyrdom of Four Saints , both at the Galleria Nazionale of Parma. The Lamentation is haunted by a lambence rarely seen in Italian painting prior to this time. The Martyrdom is also remarkable for resembling later Baroque compositions such as Bernini's (Truth) and Ercole Ferrata's (Death of Saint Agnes), showing a gleeful saint entering martyrdom.
Correggio died on March 5, 1534.