670! CHAPTER 22 Renaissance and Mannerism in Cinquecento Italy
who concentrated their masses in the center of the painting, Pon- tormo le! a void. “is emptiness accentuates the grouping of hands #lling that hole, calling attention to the void—symbolic of loss and grief. “e artist enhanced the painting’s ambiguity with the curiously anxious glances the #gures cast in all directions. (“e bearded young man at the upper right who looks out at the viewer is probably a self- portrait of Pontormo.) Many of the #gures have elastically elongated limbs and undersized heads, and move unnaturally. For example, the torso of the foreground #gure bends in an anatomically impossible way. “e contrasting colors, primarily light blues and pinks, add to the dynamism and complexity of the work. “e painting represents a pronounced departure from the balanced, harmoniously structured compositions of the High Renaissance.
Parmigianino. Nine years younger than Pontormo, Girolamo Francesco Maria Mazzola of Parma, known as Parmigianino (1503–1540), achieved a reputation as a gi!ed painter while still in his teens, and at age 21, he made a deep impression on Pope Clem- ent VII with an unconventional self-portrait (see “How to Impress a Pope,” page 669).
Parmigianino’s best-known work, however, is Madonna with the Long Neck (fig. 22-41), which exempli#es the elegant stylishness that was a principal aim of Mannerism. In Parmigianino’s hands, this traditional, usually sedate, religious subject became a picture of exquisite grace and precious sweetness. “e Madonna’s small oval head, her long and slender neck, the otherworldly attenuation and delicacy of her hand, and the sinuous, swaying elongation of her frame—all are marks of the sophisticated courtly taste of Mannerist artists and patrons alike. Parmigianino ampli#ed this elegance by expanding the Madonna’s form as viewed from head to toe. Christ’s unusually long body seems to drape across his mother’s lap, threat- ening to spill into the painting’s foreground. On the le! stands a bevy of angelic creatures, exuding emotions as so! and smooth as their limbs. On the right, the artist included a tall white column without a capital and a long series of column bases without sha!s. At the lower right corner of the canvas is a mysterious #gure with a scroll, perhaps Saint James. His distance from the foreground is immeasurable and ambiguous—the antithesis of systematic Renais- sance size diminution with distance.
Although the elegance and beauty of the painting are due in large part to the Madonna’s attenuated neck and arms, that exag- geration is not solely decorative in purpose. Madonna with the Long Neck takes its subject from a simile in medieval hymns comparing the Virgin’s neck with a great ivory tower or column, such as the one Parmigianino depicted to the right of the Madonna.
Bronzino. Venus, Cupid, Folly, and Time (fig. 22-42), by Agnolo di Cosimo, called Bronzino (1503–1572), also displays all the chief features of Mannerist painting. A pupil of Pontormo, Bronzino was a Florentine and painter to the #rst grand duke of Tuscany, Cosimo I de’ Medici (r. 1537–1574). In this painting, which Cosimo commis- sioned as a gi! for King Francis I of France (see “Francis I, Royal Art Patron and Collector,” page 703), Bronzino demonstrated the Mannerists’ love of learned allegories with erotic undertones, a shi! from the content and tone of High Renaissance art. Bronzino depicted Cupid—here not an infant but an adolescent who has reached puberty—fondling his mother, Venus, while provocatively thrusting his buttocks at the viewer. Folly prepares to shower the “couple” with rose petals. Time, who appears in the upper right cor- ner, draws back the curtain to reveal the playful incest in progress.
Other #gures in the painting represent other human qualities and emotions, including Envy. “e masks, a favorite device of the Man- nerists, symbolize deceit.
Bronzino’s Venus, Cupid, Folly, and Time seems to suggest that love—accompanied by envy and plagued by inconstancy—is fool- ish and that lovers will discover its folly in time. But as in many Mannerist paintings, the meaning here is ambiguous, and inter- pretations of the painting vary. Compositionally, Bronzino placed the #gures around the front plane, and they almost entirely block the space. “e contours are strong and sculptural, the surfaces of enamel smoothness. Of special interest are the heads, hands, and feet, for the Mannerists considered the extremities to be the carriers of grace, and the clever depiction of them evidence of artistic skill.
Eleanora of Toledo. In 1540, Cosimo I de’ Medici married Eleanora of Toledo (1519–1562), daughter of Charles V’s viceroy
22-41 Parmigianino, Madonna with the Long Neck, from the Baiardi Chapel, Santa Maria dei Servi, Parma, Italy, 1534–1540. Oil on wood, 79 10 × 49 40. Galleria degli U)zi, Florence.
Parmigianino’s Madonna displays the stylish elegance that was a principal aim of Mannerism. Mary has a small oval head, a long and slender neck, attenuated hands, and a sinuous body.
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