Saturday, December 7, 2019

STRANGE BEAUTIES: The Refined Sensuality and Off-Beat Genius of Parmigianino

Il Parmigianino
Museo Nazionale de Capodimonte, Napoli

The Refined Sensuality and Off-Beat Genius of Parmigianino

When you took your Italian Renaissance course, if you took it, at some point you landed squarely on a painting commonly referred to as the “Madonna with the Long Neck,” the archetypal painting in the Mannerist style.

It was created by the preternaturally gifted artist Girolamo Francesco Maria Mazzola, whose nickname was Parmigianino (so many Italian artists har nicknames - “cosiddetti”- such as Sassetta, Bronzino, Pontormo, Veronese, Guercino, Parmigianino, and Tintoretto).

Parmigianino was one of the supreme masters of the late Rinascimento, who died, like Masaccio and Raffaello, terribly young even for the times, at age 37. His works are tipified by the elongations and exaggerations that are emblematic of Mannerism.

One of Parmigianino’s many grand creations, a work that is imbued with the refined sensuality for which he is justifiably famous, is the portrait you see in this post, known as Anthea (Antea), a magisterial and mysterious painting (that was on loan from the Museo di Capodimonte in Napoli in a solo exhibition at the Frick a decade ago).

Anthea is depicted with a marten fur stole draped over her highly exaggerated right shoulder, with an arm so far from her body it is as if there were another arm in there somewhere (well, that’s Mannerism for you 🙂 ).
Who was Antea? The name was not given to the painting by Parmigianino, but rather, was associated with it in the latter part of the 1500s. Was she a 16th century courtesan lover of Parmigianino ? A metaphor for Aphrodite? No one seems to know for sure.

The wiki entry for the painting tells us that “in the description of the Farnese Ducal Gallery (1725) it is listed as “Portrait of Antea” or “The Beloved of Parmigianino,” referring to some famous courtesan of Rome and mentioned by both Benvenuto Cellini and Pietro Aretino.”

This attribution has been later contested, as well as the traditional dating of the work to the period in which Parmigianino was in Rome (1524–1527). Studies of the woman's garments, a mix of luxury and popular elements, led to the hypothesis that she could be either a daughter, a lover or a servant of Parmigianino, if not Pellegrina Rossi di San Secondo or another noblewoman of Parma.”
Parmigianino repurposed the face of Antea in the famous Madonna of the Long Neck”(see image in comment) and it bears a striking resemblance to Parmigianino himself !).
What was that comment and website by Simon Abraham that “every artist paints himself”?
There may be a kernel of truth to it.

Anthea (Antea)
Il Parmigianino (Girolamo Francesco Maria Mazzola)
c. 1534 Museo Nazionale di Capodimonte, Napoli

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