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Parmigianino, Naked youth holding ewer and cup

Naked youth holding ewer and cup, 1786

Parmigianino (1503 - 1540)

RA Collection: Art

Vari disegni inventati is a collection of reproductive prints from drawings by Francesco Mazzola, also known as Parmigianino, published in 1786 in Venice by the English diplomat John Strange. The circumstances in which this project was initiated are still unknown. Yet, it is believed that while Strange was in Italy a few years earlier pursuing his antiquarian studies, he acquired a group of copper plates from the heirs of the Count Antonio Maria Zanetti, a Venetian collector of graphic art. Fifteen of these copper plates were excellently engraved by Antonio Faldoni from drawings once in possession of Count Zanetti. This was the most exquisite selection of reproductive prints from Parmigianino's highly finished drawings known as 'presentation drawings'.

Although Strange’s motivations for publishing the prints are unknown, yet they do not seem atypical for the period. Parmigianino's graphic work was highly sought and praised in England in the late eighteenth century. Sir Joshua Reynolds and Benjamin West were avid collectors of Parmigianino's drawings and original prints. Years later, Thomas Lawrence's passion for Parmigianino an Michelangelo's drawings almost brought him to the edge of bankruptcy. In an increasingly inaccessible and scarce market, publications such the Zanetti-Strange'd album, Benigno Bossi's Raccolta (1772), and Martin Conrad Metz's Imitation of drawings by Parmegiano (1790) provided for colorful and high quality alternative.

Parmigiano's influence on British art is evident, yet still widely unexplored. Works by Reynolds, Romney, and Barry reveal Parmigianino as their primary visual source. His attenuated grace and seductive eroticism in the depiction of male and female figures was highly imitated, but still criticised when 'obtained at the expense of proportion'. Within critical circles of discourse, the most decisive comment on Parmigianino’s style was by Fuseli, Professor of Painting and later Keeper at the Royal Academy: 'the ruling features of this style are elegance of form, grace countenance, contrast in of attitude, enchanting chiaroscuro and blandishments colour. When these are pure, he is inimitable.'

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Object details

Naked youth holding ewer and cup
Parmigianino (1503 - 1540)
Engraved by
Giovanni Antonio Faldoni (ca. 1690 - ca. 1770)
Drawn by
Object type
Place of Publication

215 mm x 155 mm

Royal Academy of Arts
Object number
This image is from a book

Varii Disegni Inventati dal Celebre Francesco Mazzuola Detto Il Parmigianino Tratti Dalla Raccolta Zanettiana Incisi in Rame Da Antonio Faldoni e novamente Pubblicati. - Venezia: [1786]

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