Madonna of the Long Neck (1534) by Parmigianino

Madonna of the Long Neck - Parmigianino - 1534 - 1540

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Artwork Information

TitleMadonna of the Long Neck
Date1534 - 1540
MediumOil on Canvas
Dimensions132 x 216 cm
Art MovementMannerism (Late Renaissance)
Current LocationUffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy

About Madonna of the Long Neck

The artwork titled “Madonna of the Long Neck,” created by Parmigianino between the years 1534 and 1540, stands as an exemplar of the Mannerism movement which flourished during the Late Renaissance period. This oil on canvas measures 132 by 216 centimeters and falls within the genre of religious painting. Currently on display at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy, it reflects a style characterized by elongated figures and unconventional spatial compositions that defy the classical norms established during the High Renaissance.

The artwork depicts the Virgin Mary holding the infant Jesus in an elegantly exaggerated pose. Mary’s neck, along with the limbs and torso of the Child, are notably elongated, a distinct feature of the Mannerist style that aimed to create an otherworldly elegance. The Virgin Mary is seated in an unstable, serpentine pose; her disproportionately large figure dominates the canvas and imbues the scene with an imposing grandeur. One of her shoulders dips lower than the other, which together with her elongated neck presents a sinuous silhouette that further emphasizes the Mannerist tendencies.

The infant Jesus is depicted reclining, his body stretching across his mother’s lap, drawing attention to his physical form which contrasts with the traditional depiction of a more compact and proportioned Child. Unusual for religious iconography of the time, Jesus appears lifeless, prefiguring his eventual crucifixion, adding a layer of prophetic tragedy to the scene.

Behind the Virgin Mary stands a group of angelic figures crowded together, their expressions and poses full of grace and delicacy. Their faces are serene, but their crammed arrangement creates a sense of depth in the artwork. In a peculiar juxtaposition, a column on the right-hand side of the artwork trails off into the unfinished space, where a tiny figure of Saint Jerome stands, dwarfed by the overall composition. The inclusion of this small figure lends an enigmatic quality to the painting and has been subject to various interpretations.

The overall impression of the artwork is one of sophistication and complexity, due to both its technical execution and the emotional intensity it conveys. The exaggeration of forms and the spatial ambiguities reflect the Mannerist exploration of form and perspective, marking a transition from the naturalistic ideals of the earlier Renaissance.

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