Bishop Saint in Bust-Length (Cartoon for an Altarpiece)

Artist: Parmigianino (Girolamo Francesco Maria Mazzola) (Italian, Parma 1503–1540 Casalmaggiore)

Date: 1503–40

Medium: Brush and brown wash over black chalk

Dimensions: 28-1/4 x 16-1/16 in. (71.8 x 40.8 cm)

Classification: Drawings

Credit Line: Van Day Truex Fund, 1995

Accession Number: 1995.306


This boldly executed drawing is the only extant cartoon (full-scale drawing) on a monumental scale that can be definitively assigned to Parmigianino. One of the great masters of Italian Mannerism, Parmigianino was born and trained in Parma and worked in Rome and Bologna in the 1520s before returning to his native city. In size and design, the present drawing is close to the broadly painted bishop saint praying at left in the artist’s Madonna of Saint Margaret, originally painted in 1529–30 for the convent church of Santa Margherita, Bologna, and now in the local Pinacoteca Nazionale. Here, Parmigianino’s rapid brushwork with wash is similar to that in his mature oil paintings. The motif of the flamelike praying hands lit from below is among the most distinctive of his stylistic devices.
(Carmen C. Bambach, 2001, revised 2014)