Correggio and Parmigianino at The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Correggio, The Annunciation (ca. 1522-25), pen and black ink, gray wash, extensive white heightening, squared in red chalk on pink-washed paper, 3-3/4″ x 6-3/4″

* * *

The better part of Correggio and Parmigianino: Master Draftsmen of the Renaissance is given over to Parmigianino; with over 100 drawings on view, he outnumbers Correggio three to one. Yet it’s Correggio New Yorkers will remember long after this sterling show has folded its tent.

Parmigianino (1503-40) is no slouch, certainly–the fluency of his drawings is, just as the title says, masterly. But it’s a fluency that the curators haven’t put into focus. Notwithstanding standouts like Virgin and Child (circa 1524-25), A Rearing Horse, Seen From Behind (circa 1524) or Head of a Girl (circa 1524-25), wherein each jot of white is tantamount to a kiss, Parmigianino gets lost in the mix.

Not so Correggio (circa 1489-1534). Even at his most refined, he comes across as a force of nature, one whose sense of artistic mission was robust, resolute and not a little fierce. The pieces range from the tangled The Madonna and Child with Saints (circa 1523) to the pearlescent The Adoration of the Shepherds (circa 1522) to the plush voyeurism of Venus Asleep (circa 1523). The most beautiful of them all may be Eve and Other Figures (circa 1523-25), a drawing so fine and gentle that it’s (to filch a phrase from Vasari) “almost impossible that a man could have conceived such a work as this, and more impossible still, that he should have done it with human hands.”

A truer tribute to this particular set of human hands one could not imagine.

© 2001

Originally published in the April 23, 2001 edition of The New York Observer.


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