Thursday, April 7, 2011


I attribute my current and abundant love of violet to one painting, "Virgin Mary with Baby and the Saints Margaret, Girolamo and Petronio." I had the privilege of seeing it as part on an undergraduate research trip to Italy quite a while back.  There were several things that struck me about it, and that have stayed with me through the years.  First, it is rarely reproduced and I stumbled across it for the first time in person.  The figures are elegant and beautifully modeled, but Saint Margaret is most exquisitely rendered in the foreground right. My mind was blown by the amount of violet in her cheek, which I recall being in delicate contoured in slightly raised ribbons of paint.  I had never seen so much violet used in flesh before.  A little unnatural, but oh so brilliant!  Another curiosity of the painting was that the circular halos of some of the figures (I can't recall exactly which or how many) were incised deeply into the panel itself, and then painted over.  This, in addition to the violet, remains invisible on the reproduction on the museum's website, which I liberally color-adjusted here to jive more with my memories.

Parmigianino, most commonly known for his very conspicuous "Madonna of the Long Neck" was one of the of the Mannerist era following the Renaissance.  For generations of art history, this period was viewed as a fall from the naturalism of the high Renaissance of Raphael and Leonardo to a more artificial mode of painting where artists looked to other art and artists as reference.   Followed by the Protestant Reformation, and the austere realist paintings produced by Baroque artists in reaction, the Mannerist era was viewed by many as a bit of a puzzle, a decadent blip in the march of four centuries of realism before Modernism.

More on Parmigianino:
Bologna National Museum
Web Gallery of Art

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