Since 1578 Emperor Rudolf II had been trying with dogged persistence to acquire this painting, which meanwhile was in the collection of the Spanish king. It was only in 1605, with the help of his agent Hans Khevenhüller, that he finally succeeded in acquiring the coveted work. Probably created in Parma in 1534/35, the painting is among the key works of Upper Italian Mannerism, and Parmigianino had played an important role in the development of the style. The great popularity of his concept for this painting is attested to by some fifty known copies (cf. the one by Joseph Heintz; KHM, GG, Inv. No. 1588). Completely in keeping with the contemporary concept, which was sometimes accompanied by homoerotic desires, Amor appears here not as a small child but as an adolescent youth. With the back turned towards the viewer, the almost uniformly illuminated body of the messenger of love fills the entire height of the composition. His penetrating glance (reminiscent of Amor’s arrows) looks seductively from the painting. The weapon he is making in order to spreadjoy and pain in equal measure rests carelessly on the two books, in a gesture in triumph over their learned contents. Two putti, seen between Amor’s straddled legs, are wrestling behind him. According to one interpretation, the victor in their proxy struggle between palpable desire and quiet longing has not yet been decided. Parmigianino brilliantly characterises the different surfaces: Amor’s hair, which is artistically coiffed in delicate curls, the soft wings elegantly attached to his body and, finally, the skin of the three protagonists, the colour of which powerfully dominates the picture. This late work by the artist, who died in 1540 at the age of only 39, is distinguished by the smooth, brightly illuminated bodies and finelyworked details.
© Cäcilia Bischoff, Masterpieces of the Picture Gallery. A Brief Guide to the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna 2010


  • Title: Bow-carving Amor
  • Creator: Francesco Mazzola, called Parmigianino
  • Creator Lifespan: 1503/1540
  • Creator Nationality: italian
  • Creator Gender: male
  • Creator Death Place: Casalmaggiore
  • Creator Birth Place: Parma
  • Date Created: 1534/1535
  • Style: Italian Mannerism
  • Provenance: 1605 bought by Emperor Rudolf II.
  • Physical Dimensions: w650 x h1355 cm (without frame)
  • Inventory Number: GG 275
  • Artist Biography: Parmigianino, born Girolamo Francesco Maria Mazzola in Parma, Italy, became Italy's most influential Mannerist painter in his brief twenty-year career. His father and uncles taught him the techniques of painting, and by age sixteen he had already completed an altarpiece for a local church. Beginning in 1520, the celebrated Renaissance artist Correggio became his primary inspiration. Scholars believe that the younger artist may have assisted Correggio with his frescoes at a church in Parma, where Parmigianino may also have completed his own frescoes. In 1524 Parmigianino visited Rome to present a self-portrait to Pope Clement VII. [KHM, Inv.-Nr. 286] There the young artist experienced Raphael and Michelangelo's art firsthand, and his style became more grand, elegant, and noble. Following the Sack of Rome in 1527, Parmigianino escaped to Bologna, but within three years he had returned to Parma, where he received a commission to paint frescoes in another church. At this time, according to some accounts, Parmigianino became a devotee of alchemy, transforming himself into a lunatic and completing little work at the church. He was imprisoned after nearly a decade of slow progress but escaped. ©J. Paul Getty Trust
  • Type: paintings
  • External Link: http://www.khm.at/en/collections/picture-gallery
  • Medium: Oil on Wood

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