The Great Renaissance art of Parma Italy 2018: Parmigianino & Correggio

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The Great Renaissance art of Parma:  Parmigianino & Correggio

The High Renaissance

Mannerism Art of Parma

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Vision of St. John the Evangelist
fresco in dome, San Giovanni Evangelista, Parma, 1520-23

In the early 1520s, two great northern Italian masters, Correggio and Parmigianino (1503—40), made an important contribution to the art of decoration with their frescos for the church of San Giovanni Evangelista at Parma and the Rocca di San Vitale at Fontanellato, respectively. Both Correggio in his Vision of St John the Evangelistand Parmigianino in his Myth of Diana and Actaeon display their innate talent for naturalism.

In the San Giovanni dome there are various Roman, and mainly Raphaelesque, features, but Correggio frees the scene totally of architectural elements, leaving the figures in a vortex of light and clouds. This anticipates the most liberal of Baroque compositions.

While still young, Parmigianino, from nearby Fontanellato, was influenced by Correggio. However, he was already proving himself more fluent and refined than his elder, preferring more intimate scenes. His trip to Rome in 1524 and contact with Michelangelo eventually led him away from the High Renaissance style towards Mannerism, accentuating the formal aestheticism and delicate balance, while maintaining a highly refined sense of colour and composition.


Myth of Diana and Acteon
ceiling in the Rossa di San Vitale, Fontanellato, c. 1522

The Mystic Marriage of St. Catherine
National Gallery of Art, Washington

Nativity (Holy Night)
Oil on canvas, 256,5 x 188 cm
Gemaldegalerie, Dresden


Madonna with St. Jerome (The Day)
about 1522
Oil on canvas, 205,7 x 141 cm
Galleria Nazionale, Parma

Venus and Cupid with a Satyr
about 1528
Oil on canvas, 188,5 x 125,5 cm
Musee du Louvre, Paris


Tempera on panel, 161 x 193 cm
Galleria Borghese, Rome

Jupiter and Io
Oil on canvas, 163,5 x 70,5 cm
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna


born Jan. 11, 1503, Parma, Duchy of Milan
died Aug. 24, 1540, Casalmaggiore, Cremona

also called Parmigiano , byname of Girolamo Francesco Maria Mazzola , or Mazzuoli painter who was one of the first artists to develop the elegant and sophisticated version of Mannerist style that became a formative influence on the post-High Renaissance generation.

There is no doubt that Correggio was the strongest single influence on Parmigianino’s early development, but he probably was never a pupil of that master. The influence is apparent in Parmigianino’s first important work, the “Mystic Marriage of St. Catherine” (c. 1521). About 1522–23 he executed two series of frescoes: one series in two side chapels of S. Giovanni Evangelista, in Parma, executed contemporaneously with Correggio’s great murals on the dome and pendentives of that church, and the other, representing the “Legend of Diana andActaeon,” on the ceiling of a room in the castle of Fontanellato just outside Parma. The scheme of the latter decoration recalls Correggio’s work in the Camera di San Paolo in Parma.

In 1524 Parmigianino moved to Rome, taking with him three specimens of his work to impress the pope, including the famous self-portrait that he had painted on a convex panel from his reflection in a convex mirror. His chief painting donein Rome is the large “Vision of St. Jerome” (1527). Although this work shows the influence of Michelangelo, it was Raphael’s ideal beauty of form and feature that influenced his entire oeuvre. While at work on the“Vision of St. Jerome” in 1527 he was interrupted by soldiers of the imperial army taking part in the sack of Rome, and he left for Bologna. There he painted one of his masterpieces, the “Madonna with St. Margaret and Other Saints.” In 1531 he returned to Parma, where he remained for the rest of his life, the principal works of this last period being the “Madonna dal Collo Lungo” (1534; “Madonna of the Long Neck”) and the frescoes on the vault preceding the apse of Sta. Maria della Steccata. The latter were to have been only part of a much larger scheme of decoration in the church, but Parmigianino was extremely dilatory over their execution, and he was eventually imprisoned for breaking his contract.

Parmigianino was one of the most remarkable portrait painters of the century outside Venice. Some of his best portraits are in Naples, in the Museo e Gallerie Nazionali di Capodimonte, including the “Gian Galeazzo Sanvitale” (1524) and the portrait of a young woman called “Antea” (c. 1535–37).

The style that he developed was, in its suave attenuations and technical virtuosity, one of the most brilliant and influential manifestations of Mannerism. It was an extreme development of Raphael’s late manner and weakened the naturalistic basis inherent in High Renaissance art.

Parmigianino’s works are distinguished by ambiguity of spatial composition, by distortion and elongation of the human figure, and by the pursuit of what the art historian Vasari called “grace”; that is to say, a rhythmical, sensuous beauty beyond the beauty of nature. This last quality of attenuated elegance is evident not only in Parmigianino’s paintings but also in his numerous and sensitive drawings. One of the first Italian artists to practice etching, Parmigianino used the etching needle with the freedom of a pen, usually to reproduce his own drawings, which were in great demand.

Mystic Marriage of Saint Catherine
Oil on panel
National Gallery, London


The Vision of St Jerome
Oil on wood, 343 x 149 cm
National Gallery, London

Madonna with Long Neck
Oil on panel, 216 x 132 cm
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

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