Seated Figure of Mercury

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

Date: 1503–40

Medium: Black chalk

Dimensions: 12 x 8 1/8in. (30.5 x 20.6cm)

Classification: Drawings

Credit Line: Purchase, Florence B. Selden Bequest, Charles and Jessie Price Gift, and Harry G. Sperling Fund, 1997

Accession Number: 1997.154


The attribution of this drawing to Parmigianino was first advanced by Oberhuber (oral communication to the previous owner) and has been universally accepted. De Grazia hypothesized that it may have been made as a preparatory study for a lost painting of Mercury by Parmigianino listed in the 1561 inventory of works belonging to his patron, the Cavaliere Francesco Baiardo. Whether or not this is true, it is clear that the drawing was made in connection with a finished work, on account both of the specificity of its composition and the existence of a small earlier sketch of the same figure in the National Gallery of Art, Washington (Washington and Parma 1984, fig. 42a). The pose of Mercury, with elongated torso and sharply foreshortened legs, indicates that the painting or fresco was to be viewed from below. The style of the drawing, and its obvious partial dependence on Michelangelo's fresco of Jonah on the Sistine ceiling (see also cat. 68), indicated a date shortly after the artist's arrival in Rome in 1524. The sfumato modeling is still Correggesque, but the impact of Michelangelo and ancient Roman sculpture on Parmigianino are evident here. Perhaps most comparable among his drawings in both form and technique is the study in the Louvre of a man seated on the ground (Popham, no. 504, pl.112). (George R. Goldner in Correggio and Parmigianino: Master Draughtsmen of the Renaissance, exh. cat. New York and London 2000, p. 112, no. 69)