Friday, 11 January 2013

The Little Parmesan

Today is the 510th birthday of the Italian mannerist painter known as Il Parmigianino - yes, the Little Parmesan. His youthful showpiece, Self Portrait in a Convex Mirror (above), is one of the most extraordinary paintings of its time - and has had a long afterlife, inspiring one of John Ashbery's finest, most controlled long poems.
Despite his early reputation as 'Raphael reborn', the Little Parmesan never quite became a Big Cheese in the art world. As with so many artists of his time, his career never quite coalesced, and he died young, leaving a handful of strange masterpieces behind him. Two of them are in London's National Gallery - the tall altarpiece of The Vision of Saint Jerome, an unusual composition of typically elongated figures, quite beautifully painted and well worth a long close look. And then there's the Portrait of a Collector, a picture so thundery, unsettling and rebarbative that it's hard to linger anywhere in its vicinity. A strange painter indeed, Il Parmigianino...

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