Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Il Parmigiano

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From volume 11 of the work.


The current name of FRANCESCO MAZZUOLA, MAZZOLA, MAZZUOLI, or MAZZOLI, Italian painter, born at Parma, 1504; died at Casal Maggiore, 1540. He was the son of Filippo Mazzuola, a painter, also known as Filippo dell' Erbette, who died in 1505. Francesco's uncles, Michele and Pierilario, brought him up. With a strong taste for painting, the boy developed a particular enthusiasm for Correggio, the founder of the Parmesan School. His "St. Bernard", painted for the Observantines of Parma, and other early works of his, show him to have been an eager follower of Correggio. At twenty, longing to study the masterpieces of Michelangelo, he set out for Rome, where his precocious talent soon won renown. According to Vasari, it was a saying at Rome, that "the soul of Raphael had passed into the Parmesan's body". Clement VII commissioned him to paint a "Circumcision". But the sack of Rome (1527) checked this bright beginning. Mazzuola fled to Bologna, where he painted many altar-pieces, notably, the "Virgin and Child", "St. John", "St. Margaret and St. Jerome" (now in the Louvre). For San Petronio he executed a "St. Roch". He was in Parma in 1531, since his contract with the Confraternity of the Steccata is dated 10 May of that year. He frescoed the arcade of the choir in that church, where his chiaroscuro, "Moses breaking the Tables of the Law", is one of the masterpieces of his school. Unfortunately, he never finished the Steccata commission. His passion for alchemy not only cost him time, money, and health, but prevented him from keeping his engagements. As he had been paid part in advance, the Steccata Confraternity, weary of waiting, had him prosecuted and condemned to prison in 1537. Released upon promise to finish the work, he again defaulted, and made his escape to Casal Maggiore, where he died. He was buried in the church of the Servites.

Brief as was his career, Ii Parmigiano has left a very large number of works: at Bologna (Pinacotheca), "Virgin and Child with Saints", "St. Margaret", "Martha and Mary"; at Florence (Pitti), "La Madonna del Collo Longo", (Uffizi) portrait of himself, and "Holy Family"; at Genoa (Palazzo Rosso), "Marriage of St. Catharine"; at Modena (Museum), "Apollo and Marsyas"; at Naples (Museum),"Annunciation", "Holy Family", "St. Sebastian", "Lucretia", and some portraits; at Parma (Museum), "St. Catherine with Angels", "Madonna with Saints"; (Annunziata) "Baptism of Christ", "St. Bernardino", "Holy Family", "Entry of Christ into Jerusalem", besides the Steccata frescoes, several paintings in San Giovanni Evangelista, and a "History of Diana". in the Villa Sanvitale; at Rome (Barberini Palace), "Marriage of St. Catherine"; (Borghese Palace), portrait of Cesare Borgia (formerly attributed to Raphael and then to Bronzino) and St.Catherine; at Berlin (Museum), "Baptism of Christ"; at Dresden (Museum), "Virgin and Child", "Madonna of the Rose"; in London (National Gallery), "Vision of St. Jerome"; at Madrid (Prado), "Holy Family", "St. Barbara", "Cupid", and two portraits; in Paris (Louvre), two "Holy Families"; at St. Petersburg (Hermitage), "Burial of Christ"; at Vienna (Belvedere) "Cupid with Bow ", "St. Catherine", his own portrait, and several others. He also left some engravings, among them seven Holy Families, a Resurrection, "Judith with the Head of Holophernes", and "Sts. Peter and John Healing the Lame Man".

Parmigiano developed the germ of decay latent in Correggio's work. He delighted his contemporaries with ingenious contrasts, elegant mannerisms, and sensual frivolity. His religious pictures are deficient in gravity and sincerity, being, in many cases - like the "Madonna del Collo Longo" - types of false distinction and pretentious affectation. "His St. Catherine (Borghese Palace) declines the compliments of the angels with an air of good breeding which is beyond description" (Burckhardt). These faults are less pronounced in such profane works as the frescoes of the Villa Sanvitale; and in portraiture, where he is inspired by no factitious ideal, they disappear altogether. "The very name of Parmigianino", says Ch. Blanc, "which the Italians like to write in the diminutive form, seems to say that this master has his amiable failings, and is a great master diminished" (grand maître diminué).

VASARI, Le vite de' piu eccellenti pittori, ed. MILANESI, V (Florence, 1880), 217-42; AFFÒ, Vita di Parmigianino (Parma, 1784); LANZI, tr. ROSCOE, History of Painting in Italy, II (London, 1847), 402; BLANC, Histoire des peintres de toutes les Ecoles: Ecole lombarde (Paris, 1865-77); BURCKHARDT AND BODE, Le Cirerone, French tr. GÉRARD, II (Paris, 1892), 718; MÜNTZ, Histoire de L'Art pendant la Renaissance, III (Paris, 1895). 581-82.