Girolamo Francesco Maria Mazzola

Girolamo Francesco Maria Mazzola (11 January 1503- 24 August 1540), also known as Francesco Mazzola, or more famously as Parmigianino, was a painter, draftsman, and etcher of a family of artists in Parma, where he worked among other artists such as Correggio. He was the most influential painter of the Mannerist method during his twenty-year career.

Life History

On 11 January, 1503, Mazzola was born the eighth child of Filippo Mazzola and an unknown mother. Just two years later, his father dies of the plague, leaving his sons to be brought up under their uncles, Michele and Pier Ilario.In early life, Mazzola was taught by his father and uncles in painting techniques. Giorgio Vasari, in his Lives of the Artists, notes, his grammar school teacher recommended training in painting after seeing the musing drawings of his student.In 1515, his uncles, Pier Ilario and Michele, receive a commission from Nicolo Zangrandi for the decoration of a chapel in San Giovanni Evangelista. This work was later taken over by Mazzola.

His career began early, and by the age of sixteen, he had already completed an altarpiece for a local church.In 1521, Mazzola fled to Viadana at the request of his uncles, after the battle between Francois I and the allied Charles V and Leo X. Here, he painted two panels in tempera, depicting Saint Francis for the church of the Frati de'Zoccoli, and the Mystical Marriage of Saint Catherine for San Pietro. This year and the next, he also worked in San Giovanni, where he first met Correggio, on the scaffolding put up in the cupola.

Mazzola received a major commission in 1522 to decorate the left transept arm of the cathedral of San Giovanni. However, this was hampered so much by delays that he was not able to execute the commissioned work.Mazzola may well have had contact with the active Correggio during his work in Parma, where he may also have completed his own frescoes.Between 1523 and 1524, Mazzola met Galeazzo Sanvitale, with whom he had a long relationship.

In 1524, Mazzola visited Rome, and presented four small paintings, and his Self-portrait in a Convex Mirror, to Clement VII, the new Medici pope, from whom Mazzola hoped to gain patronage. Clement kept the Circumcision. Mazzola was able to experience the art of Raphael and Michelangelo, active in the city, and influenced by the artistic centre of Italy, his work became more elegant. Vasari records that Mazzola was 'celebrated as a Raphael reborn'.In January 1526, Mazzola and his uncle, Pier Ilario, agree with Maria Bufalina from Citta di Castello, to decorate the church of San Salvatore, in Lauro, with the Vision of Saint Jerome.

In 1527 came the sack of Rome by troops of Emperor Charles V. Mazzola went to Bologna, at the request of his uncle, who also flees with him. This, arguably, was a key point in Mazzola not becoming as famous as he deserves to be. The next three years of his life, while productive, do little to develop his skill or reputation. After this period, in 1530, Mazzola returned to Parma, where he received more commissions to paint in another local church. However, it is believed that at this time, he became a devotee of alchemy, completing little work at the church. After nearly a decade, during which he completed little work, he was imprisoned, but later escaped.

In 1531, Mazzola received a commission for two altarpieces, depicting Saint Joseph, and Saint John the Baptist, from the unfinished church of the Steccata. The brotherhood was to erect suitable scaffolding and provide the rosettes for the coffers and the necessary gold. This led in the following year to a contract for the apse and barrel vault to be completed within 18 months. However, by 1535, Mazzola had still not finished them, and promises to do so within two years, or pay back the advance he had received. In December, he nominated Don Nicola Cassola, a Parman cleric at the Roman Curia, to act as his legal representative. Mazzola authorised him to collect the 50 gold scudi from Bonifazio Gozzadini for the Madonna with St. John the Baptist and St. Zacharias.

In 1534, it was decided that the Madonna dal Collo Lungo (the Madonna with the Long Neck) would hang in the chapel of the family of Elena Baiardi.Mazzola had, naturally, probably expected to succeed Correggio in the favour of the church. However, in April 1538, the administrative office of the Church commissioned Girolamo Bedoli to decorate the apse and choir of the cathedral. Worse, the next year, Mazzola was thrown in jail for two months, after the Confraternita decided unanimously to ban him from continuing in their church. He was replaced between 1539 and 1540 by Giulio Romano, who accepted the commission to finish the work of Mazzola. However, shortly afterwards in 1540, Romano requested to withdraw from the contract as the work of Mazzola surpassed his strength.On the 24 August 1540, Mazzola died, being buried in the church of the Frati de' Servi "naked with a cross made of cypress wood on his chest".