Francesco Mazzola,
known as Parmigianino

Nativity

58.3 x 34.5 cm; oil on wood panel (FC 292)

The quality of the painting is superb, and the iconography is very particular: three of the figures do not appear to be either shepherds, wise men, or gift bearers. The escaping youth behind the Virgin, recalls a portrayal of Daphne, also graphically depicted by Parmigianino, evoking Raffaello. The calculated structural instability is vaguely Leonardesque, as is the index finger pointing at one of the two bearded figures disputing the episode. This gesture is consistent with Da Vinci’s composition of the Virgin and child with St Anne (the cartoon of which is in the National Gallery, London, and the panel in the Louvre, there is also a third lost version mentioned by various sources).It remains to be discovered if and how Parmigianino could have seen those images. Close observation and reflectographic (IR) examination have revealed various corrections.

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