Parmigianino is an acclaimed painter of the Italian Mannerists, who also worked in printmaking and Alchemy later in life. Born Girolamo Francesco Maria Mazzola, he retained his artistic name from his birthplace of Parma, Italy. Taken under the care of his uncles, Michele and Pier Ilario, he learned painting from them at a young age. Parmigianino collaborated with them and even completed commissions his uncles did not fulfill later in life.
In just his early twenties, Parmigianino had already executed frescos in the church of San Giovanni Evangelista in Parma. He was a daring artist who liked to experiment with unorthodox compositions, but also praised for his archetypal mannerism, as Giorgio Vasari noted, he was “celebrated as a Raphael reborn.” A fitting piece that displays this young talent is his Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror. The round portrait shows the young artist, barely over twenty years of age, in a wonderfully angelic self-depiction, executed with exquisite attention to the effects of the mirror.
His other famous work of unconventional methods is the Madonna and Child with Angels, painted after 1534, which now hangs in the Uffizi Gallery. The piece became known as the Madonna dal Collo Lungo, or Madonna with the Long Neck, because of the unusual, yet elegant, depiction of the virgin. It shows that Parmigianino was an artist who strove towards a sophisticated style, willing to break from convention, while still executing a masterful technique. It is sometimes said that Parmigianino had dug the roots, among other daring artists, for what would be called modern art centuries later.
His earlier work showed indications of this elegant, expressive style, which in many ways was the quintessence of Mannerism. This is seen in his altarpiece painted for the church of San Salvatore in Lauro, Rome, The Vision of Saint Jerome. This was about the time many in Rome had seen Parmigianino as an incarnation of Raphael, as claimed by Vasari. Along with Raphael and other artists such as Pontormo (1494 – 1557) and Rosso Fiorentino (1494 – 1540), Parmigianino was an artist whose exaggerated forms and unnatural features became known as anti classical mannerism.
The artist himself was influenced greatly by another painter who strove for something different in his work, Correggio (1489 – 1534). The two had actually meet in San Giovanni, while both working on frescos. Parmigianino also worked in Bologna and Rome. The artist painted several religious works, which have landscape backgrounds of unusual, yet beautiful, features. His also painted some erotic works, such as Cupid Carving his Bow, and was a well respected portrait painter. His etchings and woodcuts, especially of his own work were noted as some of the finest in Italy.
In his later years, he became quite taken with the study of Alchemy, which even caused a breach of contract on a commission, imprisoning him for some time. Some scholars say he became sidetracked by Alchemy in search of evolving his etching into new mediums.