Parmigianino, Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror

Parmigianino, Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror


(piano playing) Dr. Zucker: Sometimes in our history
we say a painting is like a mirror, that is it’s a perfect reflection,
utterly undistorted and exacting. Sometimes the mirror itself is
distorted and that’s what we have
in Parmigianino’s self portrait. He did this when he was 21 years old. Dr. Harris: It’s a self portrait in
a convex mirror and so the reflection
we’re getting is really distorted. It’s a lot of fun. Dr. Zucker: It really is fun. It’s maybe even more ingenuous
even looking back on itself because Parmigianino didn’t
paint this on a flat surface. He had created a wooden
base that actually is convex and mimics the mirror itself,
which just heightens the effect. Dr. Harris: He’s really showing off. Dr. Zucker: Parmigianino’s
face is almost dead center, but he’s wonderfully calm, but it seems
as if the world around him is swirling, and chaos has been unleashed by
the distortions of this mirror. Then, I can’t just help but love
the way, what would normally be the
rectilinear beams of the ceiling and of the window, all of the
right angels that would form
the architecture of the room, here collapse around him and create
this beautiful distorted frame. Dr. Harris: This is an
early Mannerist painting. We think about Mannerism happening
right at the end of the High Renaissance beginning in the 1520’s and that
idea of distortion, of showing of, of virtuoso technique those are also
things we see it with Mannerism. He presented this portrait along with
some other paintings that he had done to Pope Clement the viii in hopes
of achieving some papal commissions. Dr. Zucker: That did not happen. Dr. Harris: No, but you can see
that this painting would really be, “Look what I can do,” and of
course he’s foregrounding his hand, the instrument of his great technique. Dr. Zucker: It’s interesting his
painting is one that looks back
on itself over and over again. If you look to the right
side of the painting you can just perhaps make out what must
be a doorway, but it’s become very small. And to the right of that, you
can just make out the gold of
the frame of the painting itself, which must be on his easel and
you can see the top of the easel. So, you can see the frame
that he’s fashioning that will
actually hold this wooden panel. And so there really is a way that
this is wonderfully self conscious. Dr. Harris: When you think back to
the very beginnings of the Renaissance when the artist was considered a
craftsman and how that’s changed and how the artist now regards
himself as this great talent with important services to offer the
Pope, things have really changed. Dr. Zucker: It’s a really
intellectualized talent and one
that thinks about issues of optics, Dr. Harris: Science. Dr. Zucker: And really almost of
the philosophy of seeing itself. (piano playing)

2 Comments

  • ObsoleteOddity

    March 7, 2016

    Love this! Thank you.

    Reply
  • Are you smurfin' kidding me?

    February 21, 2017

    I love this painting so much.

    Reply

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