Skip to main content
Select Source:

Parmigianino

Parmigianino

The Italian painter Parmigianino (1503-1540) was a pioneer of the mannerist style, within which his work shows an essentially decorative emphasis and accomplished smoothness.

The real name of Parmigianino a nickname meaning "little man from Parma, " was Francesco Mazzola. He was born on Jan. 11, 1503, in Parma. After his father, a painter, died in 1505, Parmigianino was brought up by two painter uncles. His own first works show an easy assimilation of the most sophisticated local styles, first Francesco Francia's and then Correggio's.

At the age of 19 Parmigianino was commissioned to execute frescoes for the Parma Cathedral; he painted a series of saints that rival Correggio's in their sinuous grace and gentle shadows. Soon thereafter Parmigianino extended these qualities into a personal idiom in the frescoes of the story of Diana and Acteon for a castle at Fontanellato; the figures are built up by a sketchy, pasty brushstroke that suggests an environment of fresh air but also confirms the elegant artificiality basic to mannerism, the frank embrace of the fact that painting differs in its essentials from nature.

Visually, mannerism is the intentional distortion of the proportions of the human figure and of spatial relationships. Good art for the early Renaissance was the successful imitation of nature, and this goal seemed to be achieved by High Renaissance artists. Their successors, such as Correggio, were thus able to learn it as apprentices and concern themselves rather with harmonious variations on ideal natural beauty. By the same token, the next generation could easily learn variants on ideal beauty which were already abstracted from their origins in nature and so could concern themselves with artifice and stylized distortion, as Parmigianino did.

In 1524 Parmigianino went to Rome, taking as a sample work his Self-portrait in a Convex Mirror, a distortion of his own appearance meant to amuse and attract praise for its technical virtuosity. In Rome he developed an elegant style of painting Madonnas, with a harder and smoother surface.

Parmigianino fled the sack of Rome in 1527 and went to Bologna. In his Allegorical Portrait of Charles V (1529-1530), executed in Bologna, where Charles V was crowned in 1530, he produced a pioneer formulation of the absolutist state portrait. Beginning in 1531, back in Parma, Parmigianino painted his most classic statements: the almost perversely erotic Cupid Sharpening His Bow, with Cupid seen from the rear but turning with a smile, and the Madonna of the Long Neck (1534), both paintings unified by a crisp twining line. His great church commission for S. Maria della Steccata in Parma, begun (1531) with six decorative female figures, was neglected when he developed a passion for alchemy. Threatened with a lawsuit for breach of contract in 1539, he fled to Casalmaggiore, where he died on Aug. 24, 1540.

Parmigianino was an accomplished draftsman. He was also the first Italian painter to be an etcher.

Further Reading

Sydney J. Freedberg, Parmigianino: His Works in Painting (1950), is a sound although needlessly elaborate visual analysis. A. E. Popham, The Drawings of Parmigianino (1953), contains an excellent summary text. □

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Parmigianino." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 23 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Parmigianino." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 23, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/parmigianino

"Parmigianino." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Retrieved October 23, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/parmigianino

Parmigianino

Parmigianino (pärmējänē´nō) or Parmigiano (–jä´nō), 1503–40, Italian painter and etcher, one of the most sensitive mannerist artists (see mannerism) and one of the period's finest draftsmen. His real name was Girolamo Francesco Maria Mazzola. The name Parmigianino is derived from his birthplace, Parma. His early paintings show the pervasive influence of Correggio. These include The Marriage of St. Catherine (Parma Gall.) and the frescoes in San Giovanni Evangelista, where both artists painted. Parmigianino was in Rome for a few years, but had to flee during the sack of the city in 1527. He went to Bologna, where he painted the altarpiece Madonna and Child with St. Margaret and Other Saints. One of his most curious works is a painting of himself seen in the distorted reflection of a convex mirror (Vienna). In 1531 he returned to Parma and spent the last years of his life painting frescoes in Santa Maria della Steccata. His art is noted for its remarkable grace and sensuality and for its elongated figures. Among his important works are the Vision of St. Jerome (National Gall., London); Madonna dal Collo Lungo (Uffizi, Florence); and the Legend of Diane and Acteon (Rocca di Fontanellato, near Parma). Parmigianino was one of the first artists to use the technique of etching, and through this medium his style became influential in Italy and N Europe.

See A. E. Popham, Catalogue of the Drawings of Parmigianino (3 vol., 1971); study by S. Freedberg (1950, repr. 1971); D. Franklin and D. Ekserdjian, The Art of Parmigianino (2004).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Parmigianino." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 23 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Parmigianino." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 23, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/parmigianino

"Parmigianino." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved October 23, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/parmigianino