- Also known as
primary name: Orsi, Lelio
other name: Lelio Da Novellara
other name: Novellara, Lelio
- individual; painter/draughtsman; Emilian; Italian; Male
- Life dates
- Painter, architect, and designer for metal-work. Lelio Orsi, called Lelio da Novellara, b. almost certainly at Novellara, d. there 3 May 1587. He is first recorded in 1536 in Reggio Emilia, engaged in decorating triumphal arches for the entry of Ercole II d'Este. In 1546, accused of complicity in the murder of Count Bojardi, he was banished from Reggio and took refuge at Novellara, where he was protected and employed by the Counts of Novellara, Alfonso and Camillo Gonzaga, whom he accompanied to Venice in 1553 and then to Rome. His presence in Rome is established on 8 December 1554 and on 13 October 1555. In 1561/2 he painted in fresco the interior of S. Maria del Carmine at Novellara (demolished in 1773). From 1567 onwards he was again much employed in Reggio, where in 1583 he was commissioned to furnish designs, to be executed by Federico Zuccaro, for frescoes in the choir and cupola of S. Prospero. These were eventually carried out by Camillo Procaccino, on his own designs. No authentic record of Orsi's artistic education exists. According to tradition he was the pupil of a certain Bernardino Orsi, apparently a cousin, a picture by whom, signed and dated 1501, is in the cathedral at Reggio. Lelio is believed also to have been a pupil of Correggio. This is possible, but does not seem to me very probable, though Correggio's later work undoubtedly influenced him. Giulio Romano and, at a later stage, Michelangelo appear on the whole to have exercised the strongest influence on his development.
The drawings here catalogued are arranged in the order of their acquisition: there does not seem to me to be sufficient evidence to justify a chronological arrangement. The only dated work by Orsi is the drawing of the 'Madonna della Ghiara' in the church of the same name in Reggio (cf. 1895,0915.1016), but his visit to Rome in 1554-5 provides a likely 'terminus post quem' for the dating of such drawings as 5210.43; 1943,1113.5; 1946,0713.39 and 1946,0713.38, all of which unmistakably reveal dependence on Michelangelo. It has been claimed that the monochrome frieze in the castello of Querciola (repr. Orsi Exh. Cat., pp. ix, xi, and xxi, and 'Arte in Emilia', ii, Parma, 1962, figs. 56-58), which has every appearance of being Orsi's work, can be dated between 1535 and 1540 on heraldic grounds; but the chronology erected on these slender foundations by Professor Salvini (introduction to Orsi Exh. Cat. and 'Bollettino d'arte', series 4, iii (1951), pp. 79 ff.) is in my opinion insecure.
- Popham 1967
'Mostra di Lelio Orsi', Reggio Emilia, 1950. Catalogo a cura di Roberto Salvini e Alberto Mario Chiodi (with previous bibliography); R. Salvini, 'Bollettino d'arte', series 4, iii (1951), pp. 79 ff.; Mariarosa Villani, 'Emporium', cxxi (1955), pp. 169 ff.