1503 - 1540
"It was said that the spirit of Raphael had entered into his body, when the young man was seen to be as rare a painter and gentle and gracious in his ways as was Raphael."
- Giorgio Vasari 1550
A painter and engraver, Parmigianino was among the most prolific draughtsmen of the Italian Renaissance after Leonardo da Vinci. From the outset, his style was distinctive because of the incomparable gentleness and grace of his characters, painted in an exaggeratedly elongated, typically Mannerist style. He was also an etcher, and in his quest for perfection in a variety of engraving techniques, he gave that medium an artistic status unequalled at the time in Italy.
Orphaned at the age of two, Parmigianino was entrusted to the care of his two uncles, who like his father were established painters in Parma. From a very early age, he worked with his uncles on local commissions for frescoes. In 1524 he, like many artists, went to Rome in quest of papal sponsorship, but also hoped to learn from observation of the works of the great masters such as Raphael and Michelangelo. Although his precocious talent was recognized, he obtained only one commission. To earn a living, he began producing original etchings. After the sack of Rome in 1527, he moved to Bologna. This would prove to be the most fruitful stage of his career, in which he devoted himself intensively to etching and painted some of his best-known works. In 1530, he returned to Parma and accepted a large-scale commission with the confraternity of the church of Santa Maria della Steccata, which he never managed to complete. He was imprisoned for breach of contract, and after regaining his freedom, fled into exile at Casalmagiore, where he died, exhausted by illness and humiliation.
Among the Parmigianino works in the collection of the National Gallery of Canada is one of the many preparatory drawings for the Madonna with the Long Neck, his most famous work, which is in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. Another unfinished drawing, Landscape with a Young Man Leading an Ass, shows the striving for perfection and elegance and the extreme sensitivity characteristic of his work.
© Erich Lessing / Art Resource, NY
Born in Parma, Italy, 11 January 1503
Died in Casalmaggiore, Italy, 24 August 1540
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