Parmigianino, Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror, c. 1524, Oil on wood, diameter 24,4 cm, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.
Girolamo Francesco Maria Mazzola, 1503-1540, known throughout his artistic career as Parmigianino, was one of the Italian Renaissance's great masters. During his short career, he completed a vast body of work, including small panels and large-scale frescoes, sacred and profane subjects, portraits, and drawings of scenes from everyday life. Parmigianino's style is characterized by lengthening of form, whether this is necks, limbs or shapes. Some of his works seem to be fixated by a sense of distortion, and as with many other mannerist artists his work exaggerates the ideal beauty depicted by Raphael and other renaissance artists. Often the colors used are vivid and give an impression of tension and unreal lighting. Parmigianino's startling originality is evident in Self-portrait in a Convex Mirror. It showes off his exceptional artistic capabilities and talent. In the work we observe the young Parmigianino aged 21. He looks dreamy, angelic and full of aspirations; his face so smooth and fair that he looks more feminine than masculine and perhaps more divine than human. Curious about the subtleties of art, Parmigianino decided to draw himself as he appeared in a barber's convex glass. He purposely chose to paint the mirror instead of a straightforward self-portrait and in doing so, he made a statement about the nature of art and what is can reveal. It shows us the self-examination and exploration processes that the artist must go through in order to channel their creativity. The painting is not on a flat canvas but on a section of a wooden sphere that reproduces the shape of a convex mirror. The gilded circular frame surrounding the image also adds to the effect that the viewer is looking at a mirror. It was one of three paintings that Parmigianino presented to Pope Clement VII in 1524. This work clearly demonstrated his ability to manipulate optical illusions for his own purpose and it immediately wowed the Papal court and gained him several religious commissions.
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