madonna with the long neck symbols
Madonna With the Long Neck (also referred to as “Madonna and Child with Angels and St. Jerome”) is generally regarded as Parmigianino’s masterpiece. It was commissioned by Elena Baiardi, as an altarpiece for her private chapel in the church of Santa Maria dei Servi at Parma. It was started in 1534 and completed at Pentecost in 1535, but it reached its intended destination only after the artist’s death. Hence it is often referred to as ‘unfinished’. Described as lyrical and aloof with a cool but polished colour, it achieved widespread fame during the sixteenth century and in 1698 it was acquired by Ferdinando de’ Medici, Grand Prince of Tuscany. It has been in the Uffizi since 1948.
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Parmigianino has distorted nature for his own artistic purposes, creating a typical Mannerist figura serpentinata. Jesus is also extremely large for a baby, and he lies precariously on Mary’s lap as if about to fall at any moment. The Madonna herself is of hardly human proportions—she is almost twice the size of the angels to her right.  Her right foot rests on cushions that appear to be only a few inches away from the picture plane, but the foot itself seems to project beyond it, and is thus on “our” side of the canvas, breaking the conventions of a framed picture.  Her slender hands and long fingers have also led the Italian medical scientist Vito Franco of the University of Palermo to diagnose that Parmigianino’s model had the genetic disorder Marfan syndrome affecting her connective tissue.  
Instead of distributing his figures in equal pairs on both sides of the Madonna, he crammed a jostling crowd of angels into a narrow corner, and left the other side wide open to show the tall figure of the prophet, so reduced in size through the distance that he hardly reaches the Madonna’s knee. There can be no doubt, then, that if this be madness there is method in it. The painter wanted to be unorthodox. He wanted to show that the classical solution of perfect harmony is not the only solution conceivable . Parmigianino and all the artists of his time who deliberately sought to create something new and unexpected, even at the expense of the ‘natural’ beauty established by the great masters, were perhaps the first ‘modern’ artists. 
“Madonna of the Long neck”, painted by Parmagianino, providied a initially disturbing impression of the Madonna and baby Jesus, but upon closer examination and understanding the beauty of the painting is revealed. Parmagianino uses a mannerist style in his painting which displays a very disproportionate and skewed depth sense to the viewer. Rather than taking art from nature, such as in the Renaissance, Mannerism takes art from art. This is what Paragianino does in this painting, as we can see close resemblence of this painting with the past work of Michaelangelo’s Pieta. Parmagiano takes the beauty and naturalism of the Renaissance and exaggerates it into an elegant mannerist depiction.
Baby Jesus appears as a abnormally large and long baby that lays motionless, appearing dead, upon his mother’s lap. This disturbing portrayal of Jesus is better understood when compating it to the “Pieta” by Michaelangelo. In the “Pieta” Jesus is a grown man who lays dead across the lap of his mother Mary with his arm dangling motionlessly over her lap. This portrayal of Jesus is mirrored in “The Madonna of the Long Neck” as the baby Jesus appears dead and laying lefelessly across Mary’s lap with his arm hanging over in the same manner. By mirroring the style used in the “Pieta” a foreshadowing of what is to come for the baby Jesus is being communicated to the viewer
As we look at this painting, the title is self explanatory. The painting depicts the Virgin Mary dressed in luxurious robes. On her lap is the baby Jesus. To the left we see a group of angels and to the right of the Madonna, in the background we see the diminutive figure of the prophet, Saint Jerome, almost naked standing before a vertical column, holding an unfurled scroll. This tiny figure of St Jerome is in marked contrast and completely out of proportion with the overbearingly large figure of the Madonna.
The group of six angels are crammed into the left hand side of the painting. The artist, being a true Mannerist, made no attempt to balance the painting by having them split into equal numbers on either side of the Madonna and Child. If you think I have counted up the number of angels incorrectly and can only see five, I believe the face of the “unfinished” angel is just below the right elbow of the Madonna. Earlier I talked about the sensuousness of the artist’s depiction of the Madonna, this time I again have to draw your attention to the sensual depiction of the angels, particularly the angel standing at the front. Look at the way her silky gown is cut high exposing her upper thigh. Note how the toes of the elongated left leg of the baby press the skin of the angel’s upper thigh. It is almost acting as a pointer to where our eyes should look. This is similar to the Madonna’s fingers and where they direct our gaze, which I mentioned earlier. Was this just coincidental and am I making too much of it? Did the artist intend to add an element of eroticism into this “sacred” painting which was to hang in a church? Look at the vase which this angel at the front carries. Although my picture doesn’t show it so clearly, there is a cross on it which was thought to be a reference to the future fate and coming Passion of Christ and the Crucifixion.
Madonna with the Long Neck
The subject of this piece is derived from medieval hymns which compared the Virgin’s neck to a great ivory tower or column. Therefore the exaggerated length of the Virgin’s limbs and those of her son and the presence of columns in the background of the painting, are symbolic of the painting’s religious value.