Parmigianino's Antea: A Beautiful Artifice, January 29, 2008, now extended through May 1, 2008

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painting of standing woman dressed in a gold satin dress draped with marten fur

This winter and spring Parmigianino’s hauntingly beautiful portrait of a young woman known as Antea (c.1531–34) will be on view in the United States for the first time in more than twenty years. Generously lent to The Frick Collection by the Museo di Capodimonte in Naples, this painting is one of the most important portraits of the Italian Renaissance. Like Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, Parmigianino’s Antea is a consummate example of a portrait with compelling psychological presence. The sitter’s penetrating gaze and naturalistic presentation suggest that we may be encountering a real person, yet the identity of this young woman is unknown. Many questions about the painting remain unanswered. Of these, the most persistent concerns the sitter’s identity. One of the earliest mentions of the painting, dating from the late seventeenth century, claims she is Antea, a famous Roman courtesan, and Parmigianino’s mistress; other theories suggest she is the daughter or servant of the artist, a noble bride, or a member of an aristocratic family. Still others have suggested that the painting is an example of an “ideal beauty,” a popular genre of Renaissance female portraiture in which the beauty and virtue of the sitter were of paramount importance, rather than her identity. This single-painting presentation will offer an opportunity to explore the many proposals put forward regarding this issue, based on a close analysis of her costume and jewelry and a study of the painting’s provenance, as well as the chance to consider the work within its original social and cultural context. It will be accompanied by three public lectures and a fully illustrated catalogue written by Andrew W. Mellon Fellow Christina Neilson.