A Sheet of 8 etchings St. James the Great

Francesco Mazzola alias Parmigianino

Collezione Fondazione Cariparma

Collezione Fondazione Cariparma
Parma, Italy

The sheet, of heavy laid paper, has an unidentified watermark, but similar to others produced in Italy between 1520 and 1530. It comes from the personal collection of Antonio Lafreri (1512 - 1577) who was an engraver and publisher in Rome. The eight small prints, which are part of Parmigianino's engravings corpus, are laid out on a single sheet. The artists printed multiple plates on the same sheet and then they trimmed individual images for the collectors' market. Considering the rarity of each single etching, this specimen is probably unique in the world.

The image shows the apostle James the Great, the first apostle to be martyred. The Golden Legend tells that, after his beheading, his body was taken to the coast of Galicia, where in 813 the extraordinary light of a star had revealed the place of burial on the Stellae campus near Santiago. Parmigianino represents the old apostle still in the fullness of his physical vigor, as shown by the broad shoulders emerging from a voluminous cloak, his head erect and his gaze turned forward towards the path yet to be traveled. The gait is energetic, majestic, the stick is firmly held, and it was a necessary tool for those who walked at that time to lean on, but above all to defend themselves from animals. The elongated line of the figure and the torsion of the body are plastically enhanced by the wrapping of the mantle, in turn defined by long intertwined lines that give an elegant velvety effect.


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