Madonna with the long neck

(1534-1540; Florence, Uffizi)
   The Madonna with the Long Neck was rendered by Parmigianino for Elena Baiardi to be placed in her family chapel in the Church of Santa Maria dei Servi, Parma. This is the artist's bestknown work and exemplifies his mastery at rendering graceful, elegant scenes. The elongations, ambiguities, and incompatible proportions are what qualify the work as Mannerist. The large Virgin in the center of the composition is reminiscent of the monumental, powerful sibyls rendered by Michelangelo on the Sistine ceiling, Vatican (1508-1512). Her opened toes, shown prominently in the foreground, in fact replicate those of Michelangelo's Libyan Sibyl. The sleeping Christ Child, in turn, is based on the pose of the dead Christ sprawled across Mary's lap in Michelangelo's Vatican Pietà (1498/1499-1500), his grayish, corpselike complexion alluding to his future death on the cross. The row of classical columns in the background parallel the columnar posture and neck of the Virgin and possibly refer to the Old Law of Moses now superseded by the New Law of Christ. The diminutive male figure in the background holding an opened scroll is believed to be one of the prophets who foretold the coming of the Lord. This emphasis on symbolic elements that at times prove difficult to decipher is part of the Mannerist style and categorizes the work as one of the movement's grand masterpieces.

Historical dictionary of Renaissance art. . 2008.

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