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Parmigianino (Francesco Mazzola)
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Parmigianino (Girolamo Francesco Maria Mazzola) was, after Correggio (1489-1534), the most celebrated painter from his birthplace of Parma. Heralded as an originator of Mannerism, he developed an expressive, personalized style. His active years were spent entirely in Italy, though his fame and reputation spread across Europe through the wide dissemination of his etchings, which displayed tremendous skill, and his designs for engravings and chiaroscuro woodcuts. A number of artists made prints after Parmigianino’s designs well into the 18th century. In its emphasis on elegantly attenuated forms, Parmigianino’s work is characterized by an opposition to the naturalistic style established by earlier Renaissance painters. His works included paintings, frescoes, perhaps fifteen etchings, designs for engravings and woodcuts, and some 900 drawings. The subject matter included secular and sacred topics, genre scenes, erotica and portraits. Born in Parma in 1503 to a family of professional artists, Parmigianino was orphaned at the age of two and was cared for by his two uncles, both painters who gave him his artistic training. He painted an altarpiece for a Parma church at the age of 16. In 1522 at the age of 19 he was commissioned to work alongside Correggio in painting frescoes in the church of San Giovanni Evangelista. The next year he was commissioned by Galeazzo Sanvitale (1496-1550) to decorate a room in the Fontanellato castle near Parma with frescoes depicting the story of Diana and Actaeon. Parmigianino also executed a portrait of Sanvitale in 1524 (Naples: Galleria Nazionale di Capodimonte). After the election of Pope Clement VII (Guilio de’Medici, 1478-1534) in 1523, Parmigianino was one of the many artists who went to Rome seeking the new Pope’s patronage. He arrived there in 1524, bearing three of his works as gifts for the Pope, including his striking Self-portrait in a Convex Mirror (1524, Vienna: Kunsthistorisches Mus.). He was given a commission by Pope Clement to paint frescoes in a hall in the Vatican, which was never done. Of the few paintings he completed while in Rome, the most notable is the large canvas known as the Vision of St. Jerome (1526-27, London: Nat. Gallery). He probably learned etching in Rome, perhaps taught by Marcantonio Raimondi (ca. 1480-1527/1534), whose design Parmigianino copied for Sleeping Cupid (Bartsch XVI, 11). It is not certain whether he created most of his etchings in Rome, or subsequently in Bologna. In Rome he provided designs for four engravings executed by Giovanni Jacopo Caraglio (ca. 1505-1565), including Diogenes (Bartsch XV, 94.61), which was also rendered as a chiaroscuro woodcut (Bartsch XII, 100.10) by Ugo de Carpi (ca. 1480-1532). After the Sack of Rome in 1527 by the troops of Charles V (1550-1556), the Holy Roman Emperor, Parmigianino moved to Bologna, where he painted two notable altarpieces, numerous religious panels and portraits, including an unfinished portrait of Charles V. He designed prints for woodcuts executed by Antonio da Trento (1508-1550) and Niccolò Vicentino (active 16th century), etchings bearing the monogram “F.P.,” an unidentified artist, and engravings by various artists. He also may have executed some of his own etchings in Bologna. His association with da Trento ended around 1530 when the woodcutter stole his master’s prints and drawings and absconded. Parmigianino recovered the prints, but not the drawings. Parmigianino returned to his birthplace in 1530, probably in response to a commission. He apparently made no more prints and did not produce specific designs to be reproduced in prints after his return. His most famous painting from this period is the altarpiece, Madonna of the Long Neck (1534-1539, Florence: Uffizi). He also panted a number of portraits, including the Portrait of a Young Woman (ca. 1532, Parma: Galleria Nazionale, known as Schiava Turca [Turkish Slave Girl]). Parmigianino received a commission to paint frescoes for the vault and apse of the church of Santa Maria della Steccata in Parma, but procrastinated, and completed only the decoration of the vault. Arrested and imprisoned in 1539 for failure to complete the Steccata commission, he forfeited bail and escaped to Casalmaggiore, some twenty-five kilometers north of Parma in another jurisdiction. He continued to paint, completing another altarpiece, but contracted a fever and died there, in exile, in 1540. (Rev. TNB 5/2014) Selected bibliography: Ekserdjian, David. Parmigianino. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2006. Franklin, David, with an essay by David Ekserdjian. The Art of Parmigianino. Exhibition catalog. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2003.