PARMIGIANINO (Girolamo Francesco Maria Mazzola) Leoni

Francesco Mazzola, best known from the late sixteenth century by the dimin­utive "il Parmigianino" after his native Parma, was one of the premier Italian Mannerist painters and draftsmen of the generation of artists to follow Raphael* and Michelangelo* who rejected the fundamental empirical principles of Re­naissance painting. Parmigianino's artistic career began in Parma, where he was born into a family of artists. Although little is known about his formal training, his precociousness is evident, resulting in the decoration of two chapels in S. Giovanni Evangelista by the age of twenty. Parmigianino developed a highly expressive, distinctively personal style marked by elongated proportions, dis­torted perspectives, and a polished refinement that has come to exemplify grace, elegance, and a sensual sophistication that had a wide influence in Italy and beyond, particularly on the French Fontainebleau school. His frescoes for the Rocca Santivale for Galeazzo Santivale, count of Fontanellato, reveal an early interest in the trompe l'oeil effects and optical distortions that would mark his mature work. Parmigianino's portraits from this period display a facility with the relatively new half- and three-quarters-length formats, exploiting the possi­bilities they accorded for pose and the inclusion of revealing accoutrements, but are most notable for his ability to convey the personality of his subject with a striking intensity. His own Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror of 1524 illustrates his experimentation with the expressive possibilities of optical manipulation.
During this time he was profoundly affected by the achievements of Correggio,* who was also working in Parma, an encounter that gave birth to an intense rivalry with Correggio and to an insecurity in his own abilities that Parmigianino would carry with him throughout his life, and that motivated him to leave Parma for Rome sometime around 1524. His drawings from there display an interest in classical antiquity and the work of Michelangelo and Raphael. In Rome he also became involved with graphics, producing designs for others to translate into prints. Some years later, settling in Bologna after the 1527 sack of Rome, he produced his own graphic works, becoming the first major Italian artist to practice etching. The affected elegance and thinly veiled eroticism that have come to be seen as the hallmarks of his mature style are readily evident in the Madonna of the Rose (c. 1529-30) and his impish Cupid Cutting His Bow (c. 1531-32) from around this time. In 1531 Parmigianino returned to his native Parma, where he remained until his death by an unknown cause in 1540 at the age of thirty-seven. There he painted two of his best-known and most intensely charged paintings, the Madonna with the Long Neck (1535) and a portrait of a young woman, Antea (c. 1535-37), but also experienced one of the darkest episodes of his life when he failed to complete a commission for Santa Maria della Steccata for which he was contracted and was briefly incarcerated.
S. J. Freedberg, Parmigianino: His Works in Painting, 1950.
C. Gould, Parmigianino, 1994.
Rachel Hostetter Smith

Renaissance and Reformation 1500-1620: A Biographical Dictionary. . 2001.

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.