who would have purchased madonna of the long neck
The Disrobing of Christ (1577) by El Greco.
Dramatic scene in which Christ is stripped before his crucifixion.
The design of the painting is based on text taken from medieval hymns to the Virgin (herself traditionally understood as an allegorical representation of the Church), which likens her neck to a great ivory column, supporting the Church of God. Thus the exaggerated length of Virgin’s neck is – like the marble pillar or column in the background – a sign of the painting’s religious meaning.
The painting depicts the virgin mary as Madonna, seated on a high pedestal and swathed in luxurious robes, holding a rather large baby Jesus on her lap. On her left are visible six angels crowding around the Madonna and adoring the Christ. The unfinished face of the angel on the bottom left (from the viewer’s perspective) can be seen more clearly in recent reproductions (top), following a restoration of the painting. Additionally, the angel in the middle of the bottom row now looks at the vase held by the angel on his right, in which can be seen the faint image of a cross. Before the restoration (as can be seen in the older reproduction, bottom), this angel looked down at the Christ child. The changes made during the restoration likely reflect the original painting, which must have been ed at some time in its history. On the Madonna’s right (from the viewer’s perspective) is an enigmatic scene, with a row of marble columns and the emaciated figure of St. Jerome. A depiction of St. Jerome was required by the commissioner because of the saint’s connection with the adoration of the Virgin Mary. The painting is popularly called “Madonna of the Long Neck” because “the painter, in his eagerness to make the Holy Virgin look graceful and elegant, has given her a neck like that of a swan.”On the unusual arrangement of figures, art historian E. H. Gombrich writes:
“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; that natural simplicity is one way of achieving beauty, but that there are less direct ways of getting interesting effects for sophisticated lovers of art. Whether we like or dislike the road he took, we must admit that he was consistent. Indeed, 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. We shall see, indeed, that what is now called ‘modern’ art may have had its roots in a similar urge to avoid the obvious and achieve effects which differ from conventional natural beauty.”
The small figure at the bottom on the right is St Jerome, who is unrolling his scroll as he turns towards an unfinished figure, St Francis (the artist only had time to paint one of his feet). The presence of St Francis could be a reference to the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, the cult of which was diffused by the Franciscan order.
A Virgin with a statuesque figure reminiscent of Michelangelo, but with unnaturally elongated forms, contemplates the Divine Infant, who is asleep on her lap. The Child’s slumber prefigures his death on the cross, as the image of the Crucifixion is reflected in the urn that the angel is showing to the Virgin. The column on Mary’s left highlights the suppleness of her bust and neck, but it could also be a reference to the incorruptible purity of the Virgin sung about in the Marian hymn Collum tuum ut columna: “Your neck is like a column”.
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.
The glass chose to reflect only what he saw
Which was enough for his purpose: his image
Glazed, embalmed, projected at 180-degree angle.
The time of day or the density of the light
Adhering to the face keeps it
Lively and intact in a recurring wave
Of arrival. The soul establishes itself.
But how far can it swim out through our eyes
If you are planning to see an artwork, please keep in mind that while the art we cover is held in permanent collections, pieces are sometimes removed from display for renovation or traveling exhibitions.
Madonna here, is holding little baby Jesus like he is some sort of rag doll and not the son of God. His left arm looks like it’s being dislocated for Christ’s sake (hehe) and Mary is barely trying to hold him up. C- for effort, Mary.