The Nativity

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

The quality of the painting is superb, and its iconography is peculiar: the three figures taking part in the Nativity seem to be neither shepherds, nor sages, nor bearers of gifts. The young man in flight behind the Virgin, recalling the fleeing Daphne (a subject also treated graphically by Parmigianino, evoking Raphael). The calculated structural instability is vaguely Leonardesque, as is the index finger pointing towards one of the two bearded figures disputing. Painted in Rome around 1525 by the Mannerist painter Francesco Mazzola, known as Parmigianino, this formed a diptych with his Virgin and Child (FC 290), also in the Collection. His work is characterized by a refined sensuality, and his prodigious and individual talent has always been recognized: Vasari records that Parmigianino was celebrated in Rome as “Raphael reborn”.