A Sheet of Studies of Four Heads of Bearded Men and Three Studies of Pendant Jewels [recto]; Studies of a Putto, the Head of a Woman and the Head of a Child(?) seen from Above [verso]

Girolamo Francesco Maria Mazzola, called Parmigianino

Biography



Giorgio Vasari praises Parmigianino as, literally, a born draughtsman (‘fusse nato, si puo dire, con i penelli in mano’), and his appreciation of the artist’s drawings was shared by collectors and connoisseurs well into the 17th and 18th centuries. (The 18th century English collector Jonathan Richardson Senior, in his An Essay on the Theory of Painting, published in 1725, noted that ‘There is a Spirit, and Fire, a Freedom, and Delicacy in the Drawings of Giulio Romano, Polydoro, Parmeggiano, Battista Franco, &c. which are not to be seen in their Paintings.’) One of the most prolific draughtsmen of the Cinquecento, Parmigianino produced everything from quick sketches to figural and compositional studies, as well as landscapes, portrait studies and finished presentation drawings. Furthermore, as A. E. Popham observed, Parmigianino ‘obviously delighted in the immediate effects which his pen or chalk could produce on the paper...He loved to experiment in every sort of technique, pen and ink and wash, both on plain and coloured paper, with or without white heightening, red chalk, black chalk, water colour, metal-point on prepared surfaces. This variety of techniques is a measure of the graphic tendency of his mind, of his extreme interest in the mechanics of drawing...He was a natural, as well as indefatigable, draughtsman.’

Almost a thousand drawings by Parmigianino survive today, many of which were copied or engraved. The elegant, graceful style expressed in his drawings and designs for prints and chiaroscuro woodcuts was to prove extremely influential on a later generation of artists, including Girolamo Mazzola Bedoli and Jacopo Bertoia in Parma, Andrea Schiavone in Venice, and Nicolò dell’Abate and Francesco Primaticcio in Bologna and, later, Fontainebleau.