Orsi, Lelio

Orsi, Lelio (called LELIO DA NOVELLARA), an Italian painter, was born at Reggio in 1511. Banished from his native city for some unknown reason, he established himself at Novellara, where he gained such great distinction as to acquire the surname. Notwithstanding he was one of the ablest artists of his time — and his works have been the admiration of succeeding times, — very little is known of his life with any certainty, and his history is mostly founded on supposition. The cardinal Tiraboschi wrote his life, compiled from a variety of sources. The Italian writers say that he was "in pittura grande, in architettura ottimo, e in disegno massimo" (in painting grand, in architecture excellent, and in design pre-eminent). Tiraboschi conjectures, on the authority of a MS., that he imbibed his taste of design at Rome; others suppose that he was a pupil of Michael Angelo, or that he studied the designs and models of that master; and others, again, that he was a pupil of Giulio Romano. There is great similarity in his style to that of Correggio, though his are of a far more robust character; his works having the same grace in his chiaroscuro, in the spreading of his colors, and in the beauty and delicacy of his youthful heads; hence some suppose, with great probability, that he was a pupil of that master. At all events it is certain that he was on friendly terms with Correggio, that civilities passed between them, and that Orsi attentively studied his works, and copied some of them, as is evident from his fine copy of the celebrated Nolle, now in the possession of the noble house of Gazzolo at Verona. Tiraboschi says he painted several works for the churches at Rome. It would therefore seem probable, as Tiraboschi asserts, that he first studied at Rome, and afterwards improved his style by contemplating the works of Correggio; for Lanzi says "his design is evidently not of the Lombard school, and hence the difficulty of supposing him one of the scholars of Correggio, in which his earlier works, at least, would have partaken of a less robust character." He painted many noble frescos in the churches at Reggio and Novellara, most of which have perished. Lanzi says, "for such of his works as are now to be seen at Modena we are indebted to Francesco III, of glorious memory, who had them transferred from the fortress of Novellara to the ducal palace for their preservation. Few of his altar-pieces now remain in public at either Novellara or Reggio, the most having perished or been removed, one of which last, representing Sts. Rocco and Sebastiano along with S. Giobbe, I happened to meet in the studio of Signor Armanno at Bologna." There are a few others of doubtful authenticity, claimed to be genuine, by him at Parma, Ancona, and Mantua. Orsi died in 1587.

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