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Italian Painter, Draughtsman, and Printmaker

Parmigianino Photo
Movement: Mannerism

Born: January 11th, 1503 - Parma, Italy

Died: August 24th, 1540 - Casalmaggiore, Italy

Summary of Parmigianino

With the possible exception of his nemesis Correggio, Parmigianino was the leading painter of Palma; an eccentric, but technically adept virtuoso who also worked in Rome and Bologna. He ranks as one of the most compelling artists, showing a true artistic daring in a readiness to confront the orthodoxies of the day and a leading exponent of the exaggerated Mannerist style. Defying the naturalistic approach of the great masters of the High Renaissance (namely Leonardo, Michelangelo and Raphael) some have viewed the rhythmic sensuality of his figures as an effort to translate the feeling of spiritual uncertainty that was a by-product of this most turbulent period of Italian history. His was, however, a short career (Parmigianino died in his thirties) but in that time he produced a substantial body of work featuring drawings and paintings of the profane and the sacred, often tinged with a feel for ethereal and the erotic.

Key Ideas

Seen as a brilliant exponent of the Mannerist style, Parmigianino's works was notable for the freedom of his brushstrokes, his elegant decorative schemes, and a subtle rendering of spatial incongruity and elongated human figures. He was drawn to the idea of the super-natural, rather than the natural, but his art managed the fine balancing act between expressive splendor and technical control.
The perception of Parmigianino as an eccentric is based on his pursuit, in his later life especially, of magic and alchemy. This translates to his paintings which are often lit from uncertain sources, giving the impression that the paintings themselves carry a golden glowing light that emits from somewhere within the subject. Moreover, his chiaroscuro and innovations in drawing reveal his fascination with transfigurations from one form of matter into another. However, his creativity was born of a mysterious, restless mind that meant that any full realization of his vision would always elude him.
While other Mannerists tried to exaggerate the idea of beauty as presented by Raphael and the other masters of the High Renaissance, many of Parmigianino's paintings contain formal ambiguities that seem to verge on a sense of distortion. He would often apply a vivid use of color to create an impression of tension within the picture frame, while his figures, both portraits, and characters within religious scenes, are often imbued with a rather daring sensuality.
Part of Parmigianino's legacy was his incursion into the field of printmaking. The feature of graceful elegance in his painting transferred in fact to Parmigianino's drawings. Indeed, he was one of the first Italian painters to venture into etching, using the etching needle with the same (if not more) freedom he used with his pen. He would use etchings to reproduce earlier drawings creating high demand for his graphic work both domestically and abroad.
Parmigianino Photo

Girolamo Francesco Maria Mazzola was born in Parma somewhere towards the beginning of 1503. It was only retrospectively, once he had gained his substantial reputation during the middle-period of the Italian Renaissance in fact, did he become known as Parmigianino - "little one of Parma". He was born the fourth child to Donatella Abbati and the painter Filippo Mazzola. Before his second birthday, his father succumbed to the plague and died, aged 45, leaving the young Parmigianino to be raised by his mother and his two uncles, Pier and Michele Ilario, themselves artisanal painters. Indeed, painting was the family business and Filippo had been well-known in his provincial sphere. Sadly, so far as the family business was concerned, Filippo's brothers' abilities were considered somewhat modest by comparison.

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