parmagianino madonna with the long neck

Parmagianino madonna with the long neck
The Madonna with the Long Neck (Italian: Madonna dal collo lungo), also known as Madonna and Child with Angels and St. Jerome, is an Italian Mannerist oil painting by Parmigianino, dating from c. 1535-1540 and depicting Madonna and Child with angels. The painting was begun in 1534 for the funerary chapel of Francesco Tagliaferri [1] in Parma, but remained incomplete on Parmigianino’s death in 1540. Ferdinando de’ Medici, Grand Prince of Tuscany, purchased it in 1698 and it has been on display at the Uffizi since 1948. [2]

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. [3]

Parmagianino madonna with the long neck
The composition shows a majestic Madonna seated on a throne clad in luxurious robes, with the elongated form of the infant Jesus on her lap. With her right hand, she points ambivalently at her breast, clearly outlined beneath her thin, shimmering dress, indicating the intimate relationship between herself and her baby. The latter lies with outstretched arms and closed eyes, prefiguring his redemptive death on the cross and the lamentation to come. Six angels cluster in the space on the Madonna’s right, to adore both mother and child – an action echoed by the figure of St. Jerome, who is closely associated with the adoration of the Virgin Mary. The angels are presenting the Madonna with a vessel which – according to the renowned Renaissance biographer Giorgio Vasari (1511-74) – used to be adorned with a bright red cross – another allusion to the crucifixion.
• The Burial of Count Orgaz (1586-88) by El Greco.
Depicts the legendary funeral of Don Gonzalo de Ruiz with Saint Stephen and Saint Augustine.

Parmagianino madonna with the long neck
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
“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.

Parmagianino madonna with the long neck
The golden color of the foolish Virgins, and the presence of Aaron, who provoked God’s wrath by making a golden calf, could be an act of self-awareness from the alchemy-obsessed painter, an attempt to purge through his work a pre-occupation which, according to Vasari, so troubled his final years. Though the fresco is widely considered to be wayward and incoherent in its symbolic programme – Gould for instance notes a “striking disregard for theological consistency” while Freedberg calls its methods “laggard in the extreme” – one detail is agreed to be a triumph: the depiction of Moses wielding the tablets. Sir Joshua Reynolds himself didn’t know “which to admire most, the correctness of the drawing, or the grandeur of the conception”. For Gould however this was perhaps the only time Parmigianino “surpassed his model” in Correggio.
In their attempt to step out from the long shadow cast by the masters of the High Renaissance, the Mannerists challenge the idea of compositional harmony and were intent rather on exploring different perspectives and unusual spatial relations within the frame. Here, for instance, the drawing hand swings and flexes through the foreground of the globed composition, making it appear large and domineering, whilst the angelic delicacy of the boy-artist’s face is allowed to recede into a kind of calm power in the mid-ground. Parmigianino’s meticulous eye is evident at this early stage in details like the wood-panelling in the roof, the diamond-hatch leading of the window design, the frost or dust on the pane, and the play of light on the boy’s ring (betraying an early glimmer, perhaps, of his later obsession with gold and alchemy). The entire picture is lit by daylight originating from the window in the back-left, but then reflected from the mirror-surface back onto the boy’s hand and face. In this sense, the painter seems to be lit supernaturally, or from within. Or, equally, the effect is as though he is lit by something beyond the frame, on the spectator’s side of the frame. The boards and panels and doorways of the artist’s home in Parma are visible in the background even as they seem to shy away in the distorted frame (the Renaissance painters, incidentally, had used mirrors as a tool for eradicating distortions), giving them a demur, intimate feel.

Parmagianino madonna with the long neck
On the right are a row of marble columns and the disproportionally small figure of St. Jerome. It was necessary for the painting to include the image of St Jerome because of the saint’s connections with the worship of the Virgin Mary.
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.


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