Art History Lab

The Idealized World of Parmigianino’s Madonna with the Long Neck

Francesco Mazzola, also known as Parmigianino, was a painter born in Parma, Italy in 1503. He came from a family of artists, with his father being a painter and his uncles also working in the arts.

Parmigianino showed an early interest and talent in art, which was encouraged by his family and he eventually became a famous painter in his own right.

Early Life

Parmigianino’s teenage years were spent working in his father’s studio, where he learned the technicalities of painting. He was also introduced to the world of alchemy at a young age, which played a significant role in his artistic style later in life.

Parmigianino moved to Rome at the age of 21, where he studied the works of the great Renaissance masters. His admiration for the works of Raphael and Michelangelo can be seen in his art, which is heavily influenced by their styles.

Career and Artistic Style

Parmigianino’s most famous works are his religious paintings and etchings. His style is a blend of the Renaissance and Mannerism art styles.

Mannerism is characterized by the elongation of forms, distortion of proportions, and a focus on ideals of beauty and sensuality. Many of Parmigianino’s paintings feature elongated figures with exaggerated features.

One example of this is his painting of

Madonna with the Long Neck.

Madonna with the Long Neck

This painting was commissioned by Elena Baiardi Tagliaferri for her funerary chapel in the Santa Maria dei Servi church in Parma. Parmigianino was tasked with painting a scene of the Madonna and child.

His depiction was non-traditional, with an elongated Virgin Mary and a baby Jesus with outstretched arms. The painting is known for its unfinished status, with the background left blank and the Madonna’s neck seemingly too long.

Acquisition and Display

After many years, the painting was acquired by Ferdinando de’ Medici and can now be found in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy. It is considered one of Parmigianino’s most important works and a masterpiece of Mannerist art.

Despite its unfinished state, the painting is a testimony to the artist’s unique style and artistic vision. In conclusion, Francesco Mazzola, or Parmigianino, was an Italian painter from the sixteenth century with a unique style that blended Renaissance and Mannerist art styles.

His art was characterized by the elongation of forms, proportions distortion, and a focus on ideals of beauty and sensuality.

Madonna with the Long Neck is his most notable work because of its nontraditional, elongated figures, and unfinished state.

It is a masterpiece of Mannerist art that showcases Parmigianino’s visionary talent.

Madonna with the Long Neck, painted by Parmigianino, is a prime example of a work of art that has several deeper meanings and underlying themes. This is not just a religious piece of art, but it also has specific meanings that are tied to the era it was created, as well as the artistic styles that the artist was influenced by.

Religious Meanings and Symbolism

At the time this painting was created, medieval hymns were popular and emphasized the Virgin Mary’s neck. The elongation of Mary’s neck in this painting is a reflection of the era and the emphasis on the religious significance of the neck.

Furthermore, the columns behind Mary and the tower in the backdrop carry deeper religious meaning. The columns can be seen as a symbol of stability and support, representing Mary as the foundation of Christianity and the church.

On the other hand, the tower in the backdrop represents Mary’s divine power and the heavenly kingdom.

Sensual Undertones

Madonna with the Long Neck heavily features physical aspect, particularly with the Virgin Mary. Her hand, holding onto the baby Jesus’ bottom, feels almost humanly real, making it difficult to distinguish whether or not Parmigianino purposely evokes a sensual response.

The semi-nude angel in the background is also suggestive of sensuality. The figure’s pose, with her raised arm and hand placed on her chest, gives off an erotic vibe.

Overall, Parmigianino subtly juxtaposes religious themes and sensuality, similar to many other Mannerist works of his time.

Characteristics of Mannerism

Mannerism is often called anti-Classical, as it is characterized by a rejection of the naturalistic style that dominated the High Renaissance. The unnatural and stylized characteristics are fascinating and look almost artificial.

Parmigianino’s elongated forms in

Madonna with the Long Neck can be interpreted as a Mannerist characteristic, as it portrays an idealized, elongated figure rather than realistic proportions. The term maniera, which translates to ‘style’, was used to describe the Mannerist art style used by Parmigianino.

Figura Serpentinata in Madonna With the Long Neck

The figura serpentinata is a consistent element found in many Mannerist works. It refers to a serpentine figure that flows through the artwork.


Madonna with the Long Neck, the figure of Mary’s body creates an S-shape that has a natural fluidity and liveliness. This pose contrasts with the rigid vertical lines of the columns behind her, conveying a sense of non-conformity that characterizes Mannerism.

Parmigianino’s unnatural poses emphasize the stylization of art over realism, which in turn exemplifies the artist’s deviation from the classical style. In conclusion, Parmigianino’s

Madonna with the Long Neck is a masterpiece of Mannerist art that speaks of the era’s interests and artistic styles.

With its deeper religious meanings, juxtaposed sensuality, and Mannerist characteristics, this painting transcends the boundaries of a simple Renaissance piece and, instead, offers an insightful view into the creative mindset of one of the masters of the time. When observing

Madonna with the Long Neck by Parmigianino, its composition stands out as one of its most compelling characteristics.

Its visual description exposes an idealized, elongated world, which is both unique and aesthetically pleasing. In addition, its elements of art and principles of design emphasize the artist’s stylistic choices.

Subject Matter and Visual Description

The painting depicts the Virgin Mary holding the baby Jesus Christ, surrounded by four angels and Saint Jerome. The central figures are situated to the right in an elongated pose, which is most notably apparent in the Virgin Mary’s neck.

The left-hand side features Saint Jerome in an elaborate red robe overlooking the central figures. The painting also includes pillars, a curtain, and a landscape in the background.

The composition intensifies the sense of idealism, distancing the subject from reality and making it more ethereal.

Elements of Art and Principles of Design

Parmigianino’s use of color in

Madonna with the Long Neck is significant, with a preference for cool colors that give a sense of otherworldliness to the painting. The blues and greens generate a peaceful scene, augmenting the religious and spiritual essence of the artwork.

For instance, the angels and the Virgin Mary are shown wearing blue angelic robes to symbolize purity, divinity, and grace. Texture is another important element of art in this painting, with different materials used to create textural detail.

The gilded relief of the robes and the long flowing hair of the Madonna are created through smooth brushstrokes, while the landscape and pillar backgrounds of the painting are more textured and less detailed to create different layers of depth. The line plays an essential role in creating the elongated forms that dominate this piece of artwork.

The fluid lines, particularly in the posture of the Virgin Mary and her baby Jesus, create shapes and forms which form an almost serpentine curve. This curve is a common characteristic of Mannerist art and is referred to as figura serpentinata.

Shape and form are also important elements in this painting. The use of elongated forms emphasizes the beauty and grace of the subjects in a way that other forms couldnt achieve.

The viewer’s eye is drawn to the shapes and the flowing lines, making the composition visually interesting. Finally, principles of design, like balance and proportion, can be seen in the painting.

The balance is achieved through the manipulation of the background and foreground, where the central figures represent the foreground, and the background in the form of Saint Jerome and the landscape act as the beautifully proportioned balance. In conclusion, Parmigianino’s

Madonna with the Long Neck is an artwork that exhibits a unique style that is otherworldly and showcases the artist’s unique mastery of Mannerism.

Its elements of art color, texture, line, shape, and form and principles of design composition, proportion, and balance stand out as its most notable features. This work of art exemplifies the best of Parmigianino’s artistic style and can be considered a masterpiece of Mannerist art.

In summary,

Madonna with the Long Neck by Parmigianino is a masterpiece of Mannerist art that features an idealized, elongated world with deeper religious meanings, juxtaposed sensuality, and Mannerist characteristics. The painting represents the unique vision of the artist, which is emphasized through the elements of art and principles of design, including color, texture, line, shape, composition, and balance.

Its significance lies in its embodiment of the era’s artistic styles and interests, making it a work of art that transcends the boundaries of a simple Renaissance piece. Ultimately, Parmigianino’s masterpiece stands as a timeless symbol of artistic creativity, idealism, and skill.

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