The aim of this volume is above all to celebrate the remarkable fact that for a few decades in the first half of the Cinquecento, the sheer quality of the finest paintings and drawings produced in Parma, and by artists from the city working elsewhere, made it more than a match for any of its rivals.
In essence, the two reasons for this brief golden age are its leading lights, Correggio (Antonio Allegri, 1489?–1534) and Parmigianino (Francesco Mazzola, 1503–40). The former did not reach Parma until the late 1510s, by which time he was already a highly accomplished artist, and he was to remain based in the city for the rest of his life. Our purpose is to survey his entire career, with a series of paintings and drawings selected to give appropriate emphasis not only to his extraordinary emotional power and range as a painter of religious images, but also to his mythologies, whose huge influence on subsequent artists extended from the Carracci via Watteau to Picasso. Parmigianino, whose peripatetic career took him to Rome and Bologna, is represented by a similarly important group of paintings, but in addition to religious subjects and mythologies, his spectacular achievements as a portraitist are a central focus. In addition to Correggio and Parmigianino, paintings and drawings by four other less celebrated but extremely gifted artists of the School of Parma – Michelangelo Anselmi, Francesco Maria Rondani, Girolamo Mazzola Bedoli, and Giorgio Gandini del Grano – are also featured, not least because one of the most remarkable effects of Correggio and Parmigianino’s presence in the city was the rise of these pupils and acolytes.
The glory of the School of Parma demonstrates that artistic excellence in the Italian Renaissance was not simply limited to the larger cities with the provinces lagging behind them. As Giorgio Vasari recognised in his remarkably eulogistic biographies of both Correggio and Parmigianino, by any measure they were artists of the highest rank.
Rome, Scuderie del Quirinale, March - June 2016