Girolamo Francesco Maria Mazzola, Il Parmigianino (Parma 1503-1540 Casalmaggiore)
Girolamo Francesco Maria Mazzola, Il Parmigianino (Parma 1503-1540 Casalmaggiore)
Girolamo Francesco Maria Mazzola, Il Parmigianino (Parma 1503-1540 Casalmaggiore)
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Girolamo Francesco Maria Mazzola, Il Parmigianino (Parma 1503-1540 Casalmaggiore)
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Saturn and Philyra

Saturn and Philyra
oil on panel
29 ¾ x 25 ½ in. (75.6 x 64.1 cm.)
Cav. Francesco Baiardo (1486-1561), Parmigianino’s friend and patron, Parma, until 1561, listed in his estate inventory, as '20. Un’ quadro d’una donna ignuda ch’incorona un Cavallo con’un puttino appresso bozzata di colore finito alto o 20 larga o 12 di mano del Parmesanino”.
Sir Joshua Reynolds, P.R.A. (1723-1792), London, until 1791, and by inheritance to his niece,
Mary Palmer (c. 1721-1790), later wife of Murrough O'Brien, 5th Earl of Inchiquin; Christie’s, London, 11-14 March 1795, lot 32, as 'Parmegiano ... VENUS CROWNING PEGASUS', where acquired by the following,
John Julius Angerstein (1735-1823).
William Lock, of Norbury Park (1732-1810); Sotheby’s, London, 4 May 1821, lot 441, as 'Venus with Cupid decorating Pegasus', where acquired by Greave, or Woodburn.
Ramsay Richard Reinagle, R.A. (1775-1862), London; his sale, Foster, London, 29 June 1832, lot 208, as 'Parmegiano ... Flora decking with garlands the celestial horse Pegasus, which seems to bend and glory in the goddess' caresses'.
Anonymous sale; Foster, London, 9-14 May 1833, lot 103, as 'Parmegiano ... Flora decking Pegasus with a Chaplet of Flowers, attended by a Cupid'.
Anonymous sale; Christie’s, London, 3 March 1838, lot 151, as 'Parmegiano ... Venus Crowning Pegasus, attended by Cupid” (5 gns. to Coode).
H. Perry, Greystone, Oxted, Surrey; his sale, Christie’s, London, July 24, 1933, lot 137, as 'Bronzino ... Athena and Pegasus' (Howard).
Anonymous sale; Sotheby Parke Bernet, New York, 11 April 1991, lot 126, as 'Italian Follower of Girolamo Francesco Maria Mazzola, called Il Parmigianino ... A Mythological Subject, Possibly Venus Crowning Pegasus'.
with Stanley Moss, Riverdale-on-Hudson, New York, 1991-2006.
with Salander-O'Reilly Galleries, New York, from whom acquired by the present owner.
S.J. Freedberg, 'Il Parmigianino', in V. Fortunati, ed., La pittura in Emila e in Romagna. Il Cinquecento, Milan, 1995-1996, II, p. 87.
D. Ekserdjian, Correggio, New Haven and London, 1997, pp. 265, fig. 270.
S. Béguin, 'Mysterious Parmigianino', in Parmigianino: The Drawings,Turin, 2000, pp. 17–18.
M. Clayton, in Correggio and Parmigianino; Master Draughtsman of the Renaissance, exhibition catalogue, London and New York, 2000-2001, p.176, fig. 43.
M.C. Chiusa, Parmigianino, Milan, 2001, pp.35, 37, 183-85 and 217, fig. 20.
M. Vaccaro, Parmigianino: The Paintings, Turin, 2002, pp. 182-83, no. 35, pl. LVII.
E. Fadda, with introduction by M. di Giampaolo, Parmigianino: Catalogo complete dei dipinti, Santarcangelo di Romagna, 2003, no. 4°.
D. Ekserdjian, in S. Ferino-Pagden, et al.,Parmigianino e la pratica dell’alchimia, exhibition catalogue, Cinisello Balsamo, Milan, 2003, pp. 110-112, no. II.14.
V. Sgarbi, Parmigianino, Geneva and Milan, 2003, pp. 93 and 211, no. 58, illustrated; small format edition, pp. 71 and 73.
D. Franklin, The Art of Parmigianino, New Haven and London, 2003, pp. 255-261, no. 81, pl. 81.
M. Vaccaro, 'Parmigianino, Ottawa and New York', The Burlington Magazine, CXLVI, April 2004, p. 284.
C. Eisler, 'The Art of Parmigianino by David G. Franklin, David Ekserdjian', Renaissance Quarterly, LVII, no. 4, Winter 2004, p. 1390.
C. Scott Littleton, Gods, Goddesses, and Mythology, New York, 2005, XI, p. 339.
D. Ekserdjian, Parmigianino, New Haven and London, 2006, pp. 101-103, fig. 99.
A. Gnann, Parmigianino; Die Zeichnungen, Petersberg, 2007, I, pp. 278-282, fig. 114; II, pp. 493-94.
A. Ng, The Poetry of Parmigianino’s Schiava Turca, New York, 2014, pp. 32-35, illustrated.
D. Ekserdjian, Correggio e Parmigianino: Arte a Parma del Cinquecento, exhibition catalogue, Rome, 2016, fig. 57, pp. 210-11.
London, No. 28 Haymarket, Collection of Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1791, no. 25, in the Great Room, as 'Parmigiano'.
Athens, National Gallery of Greece, El Greco in Italy and Italian Art, 18 September-31 December 1995, no. 2.
Casalmaggiore, Centro culturale Santa Chiara, Parmigianino e la pratica dell’alchimia, 9 February-15 May 2003, no. II.14
Ottawa, National Gallery of Art; and New York, The Frick Collection, A Beautiful and Gracious Manner: The Art of Parmigianino, 3 October 2003-18 April 2004, no. 81.
Rome, Scuderie del Quirinale, Correggio e Parmigianino: Arte a Parma del Cinquecento, 12 March-26 June 2016, no. 57.
Special notice

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Lot Essay

Saturn and Philyra is a relatively recent addition to the corpus of autograph paintings by the great Mannerist master Parmigianino. A phenomenally precocious talent, the Parma-born Giorlamo Francesco Maria Mazzola had an incalculable impact on Italian art during his brief, two-decade long career. Equally adept at creating mythological paintings, such as the present work, religious altarpieces, such as his Madonna of the Long Neck (Florence, Galleria degli Uffizi), small-scale devotional panels and psychologically-penetrating portraits, the young artist was celebrated for his beautiful and graceful style, which was inspired by Michelangelo, Raphael and Correggio.
Although the composition of Parmigianino's Saturn and Philyra had long been known from drawings, documentation and a print, the painting itself was not known until its rediscovery just over twenty years ago. Since then it has been exhibited, studied and hailed as: ‘one of Parmigianino’s most beautiful and enigmatic conceptions’ (D. Franklin, op. cit.). The subject of the painting is not immediately obvious and is in fact quite arcane. Popham convincingly argued that it depicts Saturn, who transformed himself into a horse when discovered with the nymph Philyra. Although representations of Saturn as a horse do not typically show him winged, wings were otherwise a common attribute of Saturn in the Renaissance. The presence of Cupid and the fact that the female figure is nude tend to rule out alternative identifications of the subject, such as ‘Pegasus with a Muse’. Parmigianino’s likely source was the Fabulae by the Latin author Hyginus (Gaius Julius Hyginus, ca. 64 BC – 17 AD), but he clearly elaborated on the concise narrative given in the classical original: ‘When Saturn was hunting Jove throughout the earth, assuming the form of a steed he lay with Philyra, daughter of Ocean. By him she bore Chiron the Centaur, who is said to have been the first to invent the art of healing. After Philyra saw that she had borne a strange species, she asked Jove to change her into another form, and she was transformed into the tree which is called the linden’ (Fabulae, no. 138; translated by Mary Grant). Parmigianino’s experimentation with and development of the composition can be followed through several drawings, as extensively discussed by Popham, Ekserdjian, Franklin, and, most recently, Gnann. The completed painting portrays the nude Philyra, frontally oriented, but turning in space, crowning Saturn with a ringlet of flowers as the winged Cupid, holding his quiver, twists in the foreground. In the 1561 inventory of Parmigianino’s patron, Cav. Francesco Baiardo, the painting is described as a large finished oil sketch (‘bozzata di colore finito’), a category of painting that the artist seems to have invented and exploited. From what can be determined, both from similar examples and technical analysis, the figures and landscape were fully realised, while the sky and foreground areas remained cursorily indicated.
Comparisons of the present painting with the dimensions given in the Baiardo inventory indicate that the painting has been slightly reduced vertically – approximately 5 5/8 inches (14.4 cm.), probably along the top. Although the lateral dimensions of the panel survive intact, it is evident that strips were added on both the left and right edges of the painting. These, as well as the undifferentiated original sky, were repainted by a later hand. The traces of the pigments used in the overpaint (Prussian Blue as opposed to the original azurite), as well as the quality and technical facility of its execution, suggest that these alterations to the panel were carried out by Sir Joshua Reynolds, who owned the painting in the late-eighteenth century. Several such interventions by Reynolds on paintings in his collection are known. One can only assume that the motivation for altering the painting was to transform a finished oil sketch into a perhaps more saleable, polished easel picture. During conservation of the painting, it was decided to retain the lateral additions and the sky as part of the painting’s history, while removing any later additions to the figures, foreground and landscape, which are from Parmigianino’s hand alone.
An engraving of the composition by Bernard Lépicié is known. This work, published by Edmé Jeaurat around 1722-24 is inscribed as after a work by Parmigianino, but according to Mariette, its source was actually a painting by the French painter Louis de Boullogne the Elder (1609-1674). This confusion led to the only doubts raised about the attribution of the present painting when Beguin (who had not seen our painting in person), followed by others, suggested that it was by Boullogne. However, as Vaccaro, Gnann and others have pointed out, there are minor but notable differences in the two compositions: the engraving shows Philyra draped rather than nude and without flowers in her hair, while her right hand is in a different orientation from that of Parmigianino’s original. Furthermore, the feathers on Saturn’s wing are rendered differently, as is Cupid, whose mouth and fatuous smile in the print are an invention not found in the painting. Vaccaro further states of the present painting: ‘The handling of form –for example, the curvilinear marks that articulate Cupid’s legs, or the delicate brushwork used to define the horse’s head and mane— are entirely characteristic of Parmigianino’. It follows that Lépicié’s engraving was likely after a lost copy of the Parmigianino by Louis de Boullogne, rather than from the original painting.
On the recto of the preparatory drawing now in Chatsworth (Popham 718), Parmigianino drew a study for the vaulting of Santa Maria della Steccata in Parma. This pairing suggests that this painting should be dated to the early 1530s, the years in which Parmigianino was occupied with the fresco decoration of that church. This theory has been advanced by David Ekserdjian, Sydney Freedberg, Maria Cristina Chiusa, David Franklin, Martin Clayton, Mary Vaccaro and Federico Zeri. Gnann in particular has drawn attention to the close analogies that Saturn and Philyra shares in technique, palette and style with Parmigianino’s Madonna dal Collo Lungo (Florence, Uffizi), begun in 1534. In fact, a preliminary drawing for the Cupid in Saturn and Philyra (art market) also features a hand study for the figure of the Madonna in that celebrated painting.
The painting has distinguished British provenance, having been owned by the first President of the Royal Academy, Sir Joshua Reynolds, and the financier and philanthropist, John Julius Angerstein, whose collection of 38 paintings formed the nucleus of the National Gallery when it was founded in 1824.

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