Madonna of the Long neck, By Parmigianino

Title: Madonna of the Long neck
Artist: Parmagianino
Medium: Oil on Wood
Location: Uffizi (Florence, Italy)
Time: 1535-1540
Dimensions: 85 in x 52 in

“Madonna of the Long neck”, painted by Parmagianino, providied a initially disturbing impression of the Madonna and baby Jesus, but upon closer examination and understanding the beauty of the painting is revealed.  Parmagianino uses a mannerist style in his painting which displays a very disproportionate and skewed depth sense to the viewer.  Rather than taking art from nature, such as in the Renaissance, Mannerism takes art from art.  This is what Paragianino does in this painting, as we can see close resemblence of this painting with the past work of Michaelangelo’s Pieta.  Parmagiano takes the beauty and naturalism of the Renaissance and exaggerates it into an elegant mannerist depiction.

The Madonna and baby Jesus appear randomly distorted upon first glance, but a closer look and understanding of the time meaning can be applied to some of the distortion displayed.  For example, the trait that gives this painting its name is the long neck worn by the Madonna.  Parmagianino purpousfully elongates her neck in refrence to a popular medeaval hymn in which Mary’s neck is compared to a great ivory tower or column.  The columns seen in the background further express this idea and are symbolic of the painting’s religious value.  The Madonna is further distorted as she takes on a shape of a diamond as her head and feet appear very tiny and her hips very wide.  She almost becomes a landscape for the large baby Jesus that lays across her lap.

Baby Jesus appears as a abnormally large and long baby that lays motionless, appearing dead, upon his mother’s lap.  This disturbing portrayal of Jesus is better understood when compating it to the “Pieta” by Michaelangelo.  In the “Pieta” Jesus is a grown man who lays dead across the lap of his mother Mary with his arm dangling motionlessly over her lap.  This portrayal of Jesus is mirrored in “The Madonna of the Long Neck” as the baby Jesus appears dead and laying lefelessly across Mary’s lap with his arm hanging over in the same manner.  By mirroring the style used in the “Pieta” a foreshadowing of what is to come for the baby Jesus is being communicated to the viewer

Mannerism can be seen as a strong reaction against the perfection in the Renassaince, exaggerating proportions and depth to create a new style of art.  This style of art was for a specfic audience of intellectuals and seemed to be an intellectual game in which what was known and already done in past art of the renassaince was challenged and changed.  The disproportions seen in Mary and Jesus in this painting are distorted in a specific manner to communicate the message of Jesus being born to Mary to eventually be sacrificed for the forgiveness of sin.  Even though this elegant painting first appears disturbing, a closer look reveals the true beauty it contains.

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