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Girolamo Francesco Maria Mazzola, il Parmigianino (1503-1540)
Property of a Gentleman from Philadelphia
Girolamo Francesco Maria Mazzola, il Parmigianino (1503-1540)

Head of a young man looking up

Details
Girolamo Francesco Maria Mazzola, il Parmigianino (1503-1540)
Head of a young man looking up
pen and brown ink
6 3/8 x 4¼ in. (160 x 106 mm.)
Provenance
Possibly Cavaliere F. Baiardo, Parma, as no. 239 of the 1561 inventory ('Un disegno d'un testa d'un' giovane col'colo. fatta di penna finito dil Parmesanino alto o 3').

Lot Essay

This newly discovered drawing dates from the last years of Parmigianino's life. The extremely refined handing of the pen relates to similar drawings exhibited recently in London and New York, such as the Man holding up a pregnant bitch, David with the head of Goliath, The Standard Bearer and Priapus and Lotis (H. Chapman and G. Goldner in Correggio & Parmigianino, Master Draughtsmen of the Renaissance, Metropolitan Museum of Art and British Museum, 2000, nos. 130 and 132-4). But the drawing closest in handling, subject and facial type to this one is probably that depicting the head of a youth in profile to the right, at Chatsworth (M. Clayton in Correggio & Parmigianino, Master Draughtsmen of the Renaissance, no. 126). It shows a boy of approximately the same age as the one in the present drawing and is similarly executed in delicately hatched penwork. In an engraving-like technique Parmigianino has added to both drawings dots of pen and brown ink within the hatching to increase the effect of shadow.
The attribution of the present drawing has been confirmed on the basis of photographs by both Mario di Giampaolo and David Ekserdjian. The latter has noted that the figure type of this portrait shows similarities with the Saint Stephen in Parmigianino's altarpiece of The Madonna with Saints Stephen and John the Baptist now in Dresden. According to Vasari the picture was painted for the Church of San Stefano in Casalmaggiore after the artist fled from Parma having failed to finish the frescoes at the Steccata. The present drawing is probably a portrait of one of the garzoni working in Parmigianino's studio that the artist used as a basis for the head of Saint Stephen.
The drawing possibly corresponds to no. 239 of Cavaliere Baiardo's 1561 posthumous inventory of Parmigianino's drawings: 'Un disegno d'un testa d'un' giovane col'colo. fatta di penna finito dil Parmesanino alto o 3'.' One Parmese inch corresponds to about 45 mm. (1¾ in.), which makes no. 239 of Baiardo's inventory about 135 mm. high. But as pointed out by Dr. Ekserdjian, the Baiardo inventory sometimes gives measurements of the figures on the drawing rather than of the sheet itself, so that the inventory reduces the size of certain sheets. Baiardo was one of Parmigianino's main patrons in Parma and also an important collector of paintings. Vasari mentioned that he owned a Correggio painting and many Parmigianinos: 'This picture [...] is now in the study of Signor Marc'Antonio Cavalca, heir to the Chevalier Baiardo, together with many drawings of every kind by the hand of the same master, all most beautiful and highly finished, which he had collected' in 'Francesco Mazzuoli, Painter in Parma', Lives of the Painters, Sculptors and Architects, London, 1996, pp. 940-1. According to his inventory Baiardo owned no fewer than 577 drawings by Parmigianino, most of them probably bought at the artist's death in 1540.
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