fig. 1
Parmigianino

In his 1953 publication on the drawings of Parmigianino (Girolamo Maria Francesco Mazzola) (1503–1540), A. E. Popham used the word ‘phantasies’ to describe a number of highly finished drawings executed by the artist in the last decade of his life. Popham specifically mentions an elaborate drawing from the collections of the National Gallery of Victoria known as huntsman sounding his horn with a stag hunt in the distance, c.1530–39, the title Popham gave it in his catalogue (fig. 1).1 A. E. Popham, Catalogue of the Drawings of Parmigianino, 3 vols, New Haven and London, 1971, cat. no. 282. The significance of the bizarre and mysterious imagery in this drawing proved elusive to Popham, and has continued to remain so in recent studies sparked by a renewed interest in Parmigianino’s draughtsmanship. In a review of the Correggio and Parmigianino exhibition held in London and New York in 2000, Alfred MacAdam described Parmigianino’s more problematic drawings as having ‘codes that are ‘impossible to crack’.2A. MacAdam, ‘Correggio and Parmigianino’, Artnews, April 2001, p. 140. Indeed, the Huntsman drawing has received little scholarly attention, perhaps because of its somewhat isolated location in a collection in Melbourne; however, the drawing was recently included in the Ottawa and New York exhibition A Beautiful and Gracious Manner: The Art of Parmigianino, which may promote more investigation into the drawing’s baffling imagery.3 See D. Franklin, The Art of Parmigianino, New Haven and London, 2003.

The Melbourne Parmigianino drawing was purchased in 1936 with funds from the Felton Bequest. Its provenance can be traced back to the collection of Anton Maria Zanetti (1680–1797), one of the most respected collectors and connoisseurs of the eighteenth century and, previously, to Thomas Howard, Earl of Arundel (1586–1646).4 A reproduction of the drawing was made by Giovanni Antonio Faldoni while in the collection of Zanetti (see M. Mussini, Parmigianino tradotto: La fortuna di Francesco Mazzola nelle stampe di riproduzione fra il cinquecento e l’ottocento, Milan, 2003, p. 163). For full provenance details, see S. Dean, Master Drawings from the Collection of the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 1986, p. 28. The drawing later made its way in to the collection of English portrait painter and collector Sir Thomas Lawrence (1769–1830). It is in the catalogue of the exhibition of Lawrence’s collection in 1836 that we find the earliest reference to the content of the drawing, listing it as ‘A Huntsman – following the chase of a stag: he is winding a long horn; two dogs are immediately behind him. A design of admirable grace and elegance, free pen and bistre wash’.5 Lawrence Gallery, fourth exhibition, cat. no. 44. Reprinted in Popham (1971), p. 272. While this exhibition catalogue may provide an accurate account of the visual content of the drawing, it gives us no clue to what the specific subject may be. The description, made about three hundred years after the Huntsman was executed, indicates that in the 1800s the significance of the imagery depicted in the drawing was unknown. It is one of the few entries that fail to identify the genre of the item as either a mythological or biblical subject, a portrait or a study.

The subject of other drawings from this ‘phantasy’ genre that Popham identified, such as the David with the head of Goliath (J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles),6 See S. Beguin, Parmigianino: The Drawings, Turin, 2000, cat. no. 93. unusually depicting David as bearded, and the Ganymede serving nectar to the gods (Private collection, London) are clearly identified in the Lawrence exhibition catalogue (fig. 2).7 See Popham, cat. no. 752. The drawing Priapus and Lotis (British Museum)8 ibid., cat. no. 257. This drawing was not in the Lawrence exhibition. is identified by the braying ass mounted by Silenus in the background; the imagery of other drawings, such as the Huntsman and the so-called A standard-bearer (British Museum) have not been so easily identified (fig. 3).9 ibid., cat. no. 255.

Parmigianino’s iconography has often proved mysterious to scholars; his work frequently incorporating unconventional and elusive representations of familiar artistic subjects. Popham commented that the Huntsman drawing ‘seems to be a reminiscence of Fontanellato’,10 Popham, ‘Drawings by Parmigianino for the Rocca of Fontanellato’, Master Drawings, vol. 1, 1963, p. 10, note 13. the fresco cycle painted by Parmigianino at the castle of Count Galeazzo Sanvitale depicting the myth of Diana and Actaeon. As described by Ovid in his Metamorphoses, Actaeon, while out

hunting  in the forest, stumbled across the chaste goddess Diana during her bath. As a punishment for gazing upon a divine sight not meant for his eyes, Diana transformed Actaeon into a stag, and he was then hunted down by his own hounds:

Cadmus’ grandson [Actaeon], his day’s toil deferred, comes wandering through the unfamiliar grove; for so fate would have it. As soon as he entered the grotto bedewed by fountain spray, the naked nymphs smote upon their breasts at the sight of a man, and filled all the grove with their shrill, sudden cries. Then they thronged around Diana, seeking to hide her body with their own; but the goddess stood head and shoulders above the rest. And red as the clouds which flush beneath the sun’s slant rays, red as the rosy dawn, were the cheeks of Diana as she stood there in view without her robes … and though she would fain have had her arrows ready, what she had she took up, the water, and flung it into the young man’s face … on the head which she had sprinkled she caused to grow the horns of a long-lived stag … and last she planted fear within his heart … but while he stands perplexed he sees his hounds … the whole pack, keen with the lust of blood … he flees over the very ground where he has oft-times pursued; he flees (the pity of it!) his own faithful hounds. He longs to cry out:

‘I am Actaeon! Do you not know your own master?’ But words fail desire … the whole pack collects, and all together busy their fangs in his body until there is no place left for further wounds.11 Ovid, Metamorphoses, trans. F. Justus Miller, London & New York, 1916, vol. I, book III, lines 174–236 (here abridged).

Renaissance depictions of Ovid’s tale such as Titian’s Actaeon surprising Diana at her bath, 1559 (National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh), tend to focus on the moment of the hunter’s discovery of the goddess, and emphasise the theme of the voyeuristic male gaze towards the naked female. Titian’s Actaeon is represented in his human form,12 See L. Barkan, The Gods Made Flesh: Metamorphosis and the Pursuit of Paganism, New Haven, 1986, p. 200: ‘So far as I know, Titian’s is the only Actaeon ever to take part in the bathing scene without showing any signs of metamorphosis either in himself or in some sequential episode elsewhere in the picture or series of pictures.’ but it was more popular for artists to depict him in the process of his metamorphosis, retaining his human body while his head has been transformed into that of a stag, as Parmigianino did in the frescoes in the Camerino of the Rocca Sanvitale, Fontanellato, (Parma) (figs 4, 5 & 7). In the following scene of the fresco cycle, Actaeon is shown completely transformed into a stag, being attacked by his dogs, Diana now removed from the scene (fig. 5).

In considering this tradition of the depiction of Diana and Actaeon, and Popham’s theory of a relation to the Fontanellato, perhaps the Huntsman drawing could be explained as a representation of the death of Actaeon.13 Both David Franklin and David Ekserdjian have echoed this sentiment (see Franklin, pp. 45, 270–2). Ovid’s text follows on from Actaeon’s transformation to describe the hunter’s companions calling him to the hunt:

His companions, ignorant of his [Actaeon’s] plight, urge on the fierce pack with their accustomed shouts, looking all around for Actaeon, as if he were far away – he turns his head at the sound of his name – and complain that he is absent and is missing through sloth the sight of the quarry brought to bay.14 Ovid, lines 240–6.

The main protagonists of the myth are not the focus of Parmigianino’s drawing; Diana now absent from the story, and Actaeon no longer identifiable with his human form, making the theme more difficult to identify.

As a representation of the story of Actaeon, Parmigianino’s Huntsman drawing is therefore not a depiction typical of the artistic tradition. Although the drawing follows the tradition of Ovid’s account of Actaeon’s death, it does not have the character of a narrative depiction of the myth and completely excludes the events that led up to Actaeon’s death. Renaissance illustrations of Ovid’s Metamorphoses often include the bathing scene, followed by the death of the hunter, as in Antonio Tempesta’s series of prints15 Actaeon changed into a stag and Actaeon killed by his dogs from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, etching, 1606 (see W. Strauss & J. Spike (eds.), The Illustrated Bartsch, New York, 1978–, vol. 36, nos 662 & 663, p. 151). and the I. B. Master with the Bird’s continuous narrative print of the subject;16 Diana & Actaeon, woodcut, c.1500–10 (see Strauss & Spike, vol. 25, no. 2, p. 249). the inclusion of the goddess helping to distinguish depictions from interpretation as an ordinary contemporary hunting scene.

The focus of Parmigianino’s drawing is not on the grisly death of the stag/Actaeon, in contrast with Tempesta’s depiction of Actaeon killed by his dogs, in which the scene dominates the foreground of the composition (fig. 6). What Parmigianino has portrayed in the Huntsman drawing appears to be a creative invention inspired by a section of Ovid’s text that is less commonly represented alone. The blowing of horns in Parmigianino’s drawing can be interpreted as a summons for the hunters’ leader to witness the spectacle of the kill, which is, in fact, Actaeon’s own death. The role of the horn in the Renaissance hunt was to communicate euphoria as well as information during the pursuit of the quarry. When the stag was captured the hunters who were with the pack blew a horn to inform others in the party, and the death of the animal was delayed, if possible, until the arrival of the lord.17 For Renaissance hunting practices, see J. Cummins The Hound and the Hawk: The Art of Medieval Hunting, New York, 1988, pp. 40, 60. The emphasis on the winding of the horn by the foreground figure in the Huntsman drawing sets an appropriate tone for the tragic fate of Actaeon, commented on by Ovid. The instrument emits such a mournful note that it is an attribute of Melpomeme, the Muse of Tragedy. An early Renaissance representation of the muse winding her horn can be seen in the so-called Tarocchi cards of Mantegna, D-series. no. 17 (see A. M. Hind, Early Italian Engraving: A Critical Catalogue, New York & London, 1938, p. 236).

Parmigianino has relegated the violence to the background, so that the viewer experiences the scene through a lens of an ideal Arcadian world, unaware of the horror of the event, like Actaeon’s companions in Ovid’s text as they set the hounds to hunt their friend down. The lack of tangible violence in Parmigianino’s scene adds to this unawareness, and has a parallel in his earlier representation of the death of Actaeon in the Rocca Sanvitale, where the elegant dogs gracefully peck at the unperturbed hunter transformed into a stag.

The term poesia is explained by the American art historian Mary Vaccaro as referring to ‘the extent to which a picture might function as an independent poetic invention rather than simply an illustration of a literary text’,18 Vaccaro, ‘Parmigianino and Andrea Baiardi: Figuring Petrarchan beauty in Renaissance Parma’, Word & Image, vol. 17, iss. 3, 2001, p.243. and may be applied to Parmigianino’s Fontanellato frescoes and, I would argue, his Huntsman drawing. This term is often associated with Titian’s paintings.19 Titian himself called his Ovidian paintings poesie (see D. Rosand, ‘Ut pictor poeta: Meaning in Titian’s Poesie’, New Literary History, vol. 3, 1971–2, p. 533). In contrast to his Actaeon surprising Diana at her bath, Titian’s Death of Actaeon, 1562 (National Gallery, London), diverges from artistic tradition, Actaeon quite unconventionally retaining his human body.20 E. Panofsky, Problems in Titian, Mostly Iconographic, New York, 1969, p. 163. Titian’s Ovidian poesia does not correspond with narrative, and the scene of Diana pursuing the hunter deviates from Ovid’s description by including her in the scene of Actaeon’s capture by his hounds.21 ibid., 1969, p. 163.

Parmigianino’s Fontanellato frescoes incorporate scenes not found in the Metamorphoses, such as the nymph pursued by two hunters, emphasising the theme of the caccia d’amore (a hunt, or chase of love), a theme that relates the pursuit of love to hunting (fig. 7).22 Sydney Freedberg has suggested a theory that one of the two hunters pursuing the nymph may be Actaeon, a sentiment echoed more recently by David Franklin (see S. Freedberg, Parmigianino: His Works in Painting, Cambridge, 1950, p. 51; Franklin, 2003, p. 8). Mary Vaccaro has recently titled Parmigianino’s Fontanellato scene Two male hunters pursuing a female hunter in her catalogue (see M. Vaccaro, ParmigianinoThe Paintings, Turin, 2003, pt. XXIV). The chase of love was a popular theme for decorative objects in upper-class circles during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance (see M. Cartmill, A View to a Death in the Morning: Hunting and Nature through History, Cambridge, 1993, p. 71). Nonnos, in his Dionysiaca, treats the myth of Diana and Actaeon as a love story, the hunter punished for desiring an immortal (see Nonnos, Dionysiaca, trans. W. H. D. Rouse, vol. 1, New Jersey, 1940, book 5, around line 437). Parmigianino’s divergence from the textual source allows him to create his own poetic invention. The Roman poet Horace’s idea of ut pictura poesis, the equality of the painter and the poet for both mimesis (the imitation of nature), and fantasia (creative imagination) was popular in Renaissance art theory, particularly in Lodovico Dolce.23 Vaccaro, ‘Resplendent vessels: Parmigianino at work in the Steccata’, in Concepts of Beauty in the Renaissance, Aldershot, 1998, p. 137; F. Ames-Lewis, The Intellectual Life of the Early Renaissance Artist, New Haven, 2000, pp. 163–4. Fantasia can be aligned with the Mannerist concept of disegno interno (the inner image formed in the artist’s mind), the divine source of artistic creation, and differing from reality.24 Freedberg, p. 3. This idea of the artist’s ability to exercise their own creativity can be seen in Parmigianino’s disposition towards fantastic imagery, such as the costume and the large horn in the Huntsman drawing, as well as to the poetic, or artistic, licence taken in his depiction of the myth of Actaeon.

The style of hunting portrayed, and especially the accoutrements of the figures in the Huntsman drawing, suggest that this is not an everyday, contemporary hunting scene.25 Contemporary hunting scenes can be seen in the prints of Antonio Tempesta, who published a series of etchings on the theme in 1595. These prints introduced a new category of subject matter to Roman printmaking, indicating that the theme of a contemporary hunting scene would have been innovative and unusual in Parmigianino’s lifetime (see M. Bury, ‘Antonio Tempesta as printmaker: Invention, drawing and technique’, in Drawing 1400–1600: Invention and Innovation, ed. Stuart Currie, Aldershot, 1998, pp. 190–1). Apart from the addition of some fantastic drapery, the three hunters are mainly naked – hardly typical attire for Renaissance hunting. The costume of the main figure in the foreground of the drawing appears to be based on a pteryges (skirt of leather strips) worn originally in ancient Greece as armour. This type of attire was known to Renaissance artists from Roman sculpture, such as the reliefs on the Arch of Constantine.26 The sculpture of the Arch of Constantine was known in the Renaissance by artists who visited Rome, and through copies. See Bober and Rubinstein, Renaissance Artists and Antique Sculpture: A Handbook of Sources, London and Oxford, 1986, pp. 214–16. Pteryges also occur in Mantegna’s engraving of The Triumph of Caesar, which was copied by Parmigianino (see Ekserdjian, ‘Parmigianino and Mantegna’s Triumph of Caesar, Burlington Magazine, vol. CXXXIV, 1992, pp. 100–1).

The pteryges worn by Parmigianino’s figure in the Huntsman drawing only covers the back of one buttock, the other appearing to be naked. This section of ‘skirt’ that seemingly merges with the flesh of the figure appears fantastical, adhering to the skin like a transparent veil. Parmigianino’s costumes generally defy specific identification. They are not contemporary but bear a creative resemblance to the antique, in this case armour depicted in Roman sculpture. The pteryges and drapery of the Huntsman figure are certainly not functional items of costume, as is often the case in Parmigianino’s art. His drapery is decorative and expressive, taking on the serpentine rhythm of his pen strokes. The American art historian Sydney Freedberg observes that Parmigianino’s drapery does not just passively subserve the body; it embellishes the basic rhythmic pattern of the figure with further complex and varied rhythmic patterns of its own.27 Freedberg, p. 16.

Drapery surrounds the main figure in the Huntsman drawing, framing and embellishing the body and its movement. Like the horn to which it is attached, the sash of drapery is elaborate to the point of defying functionality. The giant horn itself, being winded by the main figure is much larger than those of a more practical size depicted with the huntsmen in Parmigianino’s frescoes (see fig. 6).28 Hall, p. 157. A similar horn to that winded in the Huntsman drawing occurs in an old copy of a lost Parmigianino drawing entitled A nude bearded man blowing a curved horn, and two putti (Popham, 1971, old copy 53), Popham considering the original to be a presentation drawing (see Popham, 1971, p. 242). The closest existing instrument to Parmigianino’s creation is the Jewish shofar, made from a heat-moulded ram’s horn. These fanciful accoutrements portrayed by Parmigianino confirm that the scene is not set in contemporary times, but rather in some mythical era.

The wandering of Parmigianino’s mind and pen from Ovid’s tale resulted in the creation of his own personal invention representing the death of Actaeon. In his Dialogues of 1557 Lodovico Dolce used the term vaghezza to indicate the loveliness of Parmigianino’s figures:

[He] gave his creations a certain loveliness [vaghezza] which makes whoever looks at them fall in love with them. [He was] so delicate and accurate in his draftsmanship that every drawing of his that is preserved on paper brings astonishment to the eyes of the beholder.29 L. Dolce & M. Roskill, Dolce’s Aretino and Venetian Art Theory of the Cinquecento, ed. M. Roskill, New York, 1968, p. 183.

 Mary Vaccaro explains that the term derives from the verb vagare, used in the Renaissance to describe the creative process of the artist’s imagination exploring ideas, but also meaning to wander.30 Vaccaro, 1998, pp. 138–9. Parmigianino’s rhythmic line and his rendering of drapery encourages the viewer to follow the arabesques that form the graceful beauty of his figures. This wandering of vision is a counterpart to Dolce’s description of the viewer’s mind wandering to thoughts of desire.31 Vaccaro, ‘Beauty and identity in Parmigianino’s Portraits’, in Fashioning Identities in Renaissance Art, ed. M. Rogers, Aldershot, 2000, p. 63; Vaccaro, 1998, p. 139.

Dolce’s claim that the sight of Parmigianino’s art inflames the viewer with desire has associations with Petrarch’s poetry, which is quoted at numerous points in the Dialogues.32 See Dolce & Roskill, pp. 12–13. Dolce’s response to Parmigianino’s drawings ties in with Petrarch’s influential ‘poetics of desire’, which used descriptive language that conjured up imagery of the beauty of the poet’s beloved, and of his passionate desire.33 E. Cropper, ‘The place of beauty in the High Renaissance and its displacement in the history of art’, in Place and Displacement in the Renaissance, ed. A. Vos, New York, 1995, pp. 174–5. The detailed cross-hatching used in the Huntsman drawing to depict the figure in the foreground forms a counterpart to Petrarch’s visual language, the line intricately describing each part of the body in almost fetishistic manner. Parmigianino’s depiction of the theme of Actaeon can be understood as a kind of visual allusion, similar to Petrarch’s evocation of the Actaeon myth in canzone 23 of the Rime Sparse, as the poet wanders from one Ovidian tale to another:

I followed so far my desire that one day, hunting as I was wont, I went forth, and that lovely cruel wild creature was in a spring naked when the sun burned most strongly. I, who am not appeased by any other sight, stood to gaze on her, whence she felt shame and, to take revenge or to hide herself, sprinkled water in my face with her hand. I shall speak the truth, perhaps it will appear a lie, for I felt myself drawn into my own image and into a solitary wandering stag from wood to wood quickly I am transformed and still I flee the belling of my own hounds.34 F. Petrarch, The Rime Sparse and Other Lyrics, trans. & ed. R. M. Burling, Cambridge & London, 1976, lines 147–60.

 Petrarch uses the myths of Diana and Actaeon, Apollo and Daphne, and Echo and Narcissus to illustrate the theme of the unattainable beloved; metamorphosis preventing any union.35 S. Maddox. Petrarch’s Metamorphoses, Columbia, 1985, p. 27. In Parmigianino’s art the artist/beholder assumes the role of the lover, and his represented figures form the unattainable object of desire.

As a poetic representation in the mode of Petrarch, inspired by Ovid’s tale of Diana and Actaeon, Parmigianino’s. Huntsman drawing does not function within a narrative depiction of a literary description, and invites other methods of reading and interpreting the imagery. The stag pursued by hounds in the background of the Huntsman drawing takes on a meaningful symbolism as an evocation of the eternal torment of the lover, the hounds representing the lover’s desire, just as Petrarch depicts the lover metamorphosed by his beloved in order that they remain unattainable.36 ibid., pp. 24–5. Petrarchan tradition in Parma was widely influential, the city at one time being the residence of the poet. In the wanderings of his pen, Parmigianino sometimes inscribed his sketches with quotations from the Rime Sparse, for example, on the reverse of a study for the portrait of Galaezzo Sanvitale.37 See Popham, 1971, cat. no. 748, recto. Reading Parmigianino’s imagery through Petrarch’s ‘poetics of desire’ is pertinent when we consider the possibility of the artist’s own association of Petrarch’s Rime Sparse with his own drawings, this line of interpretation developed and used by Parmigianino scholars Elizabeth Cropper, Mary Vaccaro and Sylvie Beguin.38 Cropper, 1995; Vaccaro 1990,2001; Beguin, 2000.

The Baiardi family, who acted as protectors to Parmigianino during his commission for the decoration of Santa Maria della Steccata in Parma, also had an appreciation of Petrarch, the father of Andrea Baiardi writing poetry inspired by Petrarch’s style.39 Beguin 2000, p. 15. Baiardi owned a number of works by Parmigianino, including the Cupid carving his bow (Künsthistorisches Museum, Vienna).40 D. Ekserdjian, ‘Unpublished drawings by Parmigianino: Towards a supplement to Popham’s catalogue raisonné’, Apollo, vol. CL, 1999, p. 38; Popham, ‘The Baiardo inventory’, Studies in Renaissance and Baroque Art Presented to Anthony Blunt on His 60th Birthday, London and New York, 1967, pp. 28–9. The Cupid has been widely interpreted as having homoerotic connotations, which

could also be applied to the Huntsman drawing. In his book Ganymede in the Renaissance, James Saslow examined the focus on the male buttocks of youthful androgynous forms in a number of works by Parmigianino.41 For example, the Vienna Cupid and the London Ganymede drawing, amongst others (see J. Saslow, in Renaissance-Homosexuality in Art & Society, New Haven and London, 1986, p. 102). Paul Barolsky considers this special focus on the male buttocks as part of a ‘pervasive phenomenon in the art of the sixteenth century (which has remained outside the compass of traditional iconographical considerations)’. This phenomenon termed by Detlef Heikamp as buchismo (Heikamp used this term in conversation with Barolsky), is an element Barolsky identifies in works by Parmigianino, as well as in Bronzino’s Venus, cupid, folly and time (National Gallery, London), and Baldassare Peruzzi’s The purge of Mercury (Louvre, Paris), among other examples (see P. Barolsky, Infinite Jest: Wit and Humour in Italian Renaissance Art, Columbia, 1978, p. 90). An element of homoeroticism is suggested in the Huntsman drawing by the main figure’s fantastical pteryges, playing a visual game of half concealing and half revealing the contours of the buttocks beneath. The intricate use of cross-hatching serves to emphasise the buttocks, as does the baldric slung diagonally across the figure’s back to hold his smaller hunting horn. Parmigianino’s representation of the myth of Diana and Actaeon completely excludes the traditional male-lover, female-beloved element of the story, instead focusing on the beauty of Actaeon’s companion. It is not my intention here to speculate on the sexual persuasions of Parmigianino, or that of his patrons or collectors, but the drawing may be seen to reflect a growing demand amongst collectors for private erotic art.42 The most famous example of this demand being Giulio Romano’s I modi, from which Parmigianino drew a study (Ekserdjian, 1999, no. 71.) (see B. Talvacchia, Taking Positions: On the Erotic in Renaissance Culture, New Jersey, 1999, pp. 72–3).

In a Petrarchan mode of viewing, the horn blower in the foreground of the Huntsman drawing can be perceived as a creation of such beauty that, as Dolce claims, the viewer falls in love with the vision. Through representation the beloved can be visually possessed, yet still physically unavailable. The visual ardour inflicted upon the beholder of Parmigianino’s drawing extends from desire for the unattainable to a desire for the image in the visual pleasure it affords. Parmigianino’s use of line functions in a similar way, so elaborate and hypnotic that the viewer is besotted, his creation so perfect in its beauty that it amazes. This Petrarchan interpretative framework gives an indication of how Parmigianino himself, as well as his erudite patrons, may have engaged in visual interpretation and appreciation of his imagery. The Huntsman drawing, I suggest, has a greater significance in its imagery than the purely descriptive title used by Popham. Yet what Parmigianino depicts is no ordinary portrayal of the tale of Diana and Actaeon in Ovid’s Metamorphoses or any other known text. The artist’s unconventional rendering of the myth, in some aspects, fits Popham’s description of the drawing as a phantasy, but it may be more properly located in the tradition of the poesie, a poetic invention resulting from the wanderings of Parmigianino’s pen and mind.

Fiona Brown, Master of Art Curatorship candidate, University of Melbourne (in 2004).

Notes

This article is based upon the author’s thesis Myth and Mystery: Parmigianino’s Huntsman – A Drawing in the National Gallery of Victoria, Bachelor of Arts (Honours) 2001, Department of Fine Arts, Classical Studies and Archaeology, University of Melbourne.

1     A. E. Popham, Catalogue of the Drawings of Parmigianino, 3 vols, New Haven and London, 1971, cat. no. 282.

2     A. MacAdam, ‘Correggio and Parmigianino’, Artnews, April 2001, p. 140.

3     See D. Franklin, The Art of Parmigianino, New Haven and London, 2003.

4     A reproduction of the drawing was made by Giovanni Antonio Faldoni while in the collection of Zanetti (see M. Mussini, Parmigianino tradotto: La fortuna di Francesco Mazzola nelle stampe di riproduzione fra il cinquecento e l’ottocento, Milan, 2003, p. 163). For full provenance details, see S. Dean, Master Drawings from the Collection of the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 1986, p. 28.

5     Lawrence Gallery, fourth exhibition, cat. no. 44. Reprinted in Popham (1971), p. 272.

6     See S. Beguin, Parmigianino: The Drawings, Turin, 2000, cat. no. 93.

7     See Popham, cat. no. 752.

8     ibid., cat. no. 257. This drawing was not in the Lawrence exhibition.

9     ibid., cat. no. 255.

10     Popham, ‘Drawings by Parmigianino for the Rocca of Fontanellato’, Master Drawings, vol. 1, 1963, p. 10, note 13.

11     Ovid, Metamorphoses, trans. F. Justus Miller, London & New York, 1916, vol. I, book III, lines 174–236 (here abridged).

12     See L. Barkan, The Gods Made Flesh: Metamorphosis and the Pursuit of Paganism, New Haven, 1986, p. 200: ‘So far as I know, Titian’s is the only Actaeon ever to take part in the bathing scene without showing any signs of metamorphosis either in himself or in some sequential episode elsewhere in the picture or series of pictures.’

13     Both David Franklin and David Ekserdjian have echoed this sentiment (see Franklin, pp. 45, 270–2).

14     Ovid, lines 240–6.

15     Actaeon changed into a stag and Actaeon killed by his dogs from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, etching, 1606 (see W. Strauss & J. Spike (eds.), The Illustrated Bartsch, New York, 1978–, vol. 36, nos 662 & 663, p. 151).

16     Diana & Actaeon, woodcut, c.1500–10 (see Strauss & Spike, vol. 25, no. 2, p. 249).

17     For Renaissance hunting practices, see J. Cummins The Hound and the Hawk: The Art of Medieval Hunting, New York, 1988, pp. 40, 60. The emphasis on the winding of the horn by the foreground figure in the Huntsman drawing sets an appropriate tone for the tragic fate of Actaeon, commented on by Ovid. The instrument emits such a mournful note that it is an attribute of Melpomeme, the Muse of Tragedy. An early Renaissance representation of the muse winding her horn can be seen in the so-called Tarocchi cards of Mantegna, D-series. no. 17 (see A. M. Hind, Early Italian Engraving: A Critical Catalogue, New York & London, 1938, p. 236).

18     Vaccaro, ‘Parmigianino and Andrea Baiardi: Figuring Petrarchan beauty in Renaissance Parma’, Word & Image, vol. 17, iss. 3, 2001, p.243.

19     Titian himself called his Ovidian paintings poesie (see D. Rosand, ‘Ut pictor poeta: Meaning in Titian’s Poesie’, New Literary History, vol. 3, 1971–2, p. 533).

20     E. Panofsky, Problems in Titian, Mostly Iconographic, New York, 1969, p. 163.

21     ibid., 1969, p. 163.

22     Sydney Freedberg has suggested a theory that one of the two hunters pursuing the nymph may be Actaeon, a sentiment echoed more recently by David Franklin (see S. Freedberg, Parmigianino: His Works in Painting, Cambridge, 1950, p. 51; Franklin, 2003, p. 8). Mary Vaccaro has recently titled Parmigianino’s Fontanellato scene Two male hunters pursuing a female hunter in her catalogue (see M. Vaccaro, ParmigianinoThe Paintings, Turin, 2003, pt. XXIV). The chase of love was a popular theme for decorative objects in upper-class circles during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance (see M. Cartmill, A View to a Death in the Morning: Hunting and Nature through History, Cambridge, 1993, p. 71). Nonnos, in his Dionysiaca, treats the myth of Diana and Actaeon as a love story, the hunter punished for desiring an immortal (see Nonnos, Dionysiaca, trans. W. H. D. Rouse, vol. 1, New Jersey, 1940, book 5, around line 437).

23     Vaccaro, ‘Resplendent vessels: Parmigianino at work in the Steccata’, in Concepts of Beauty in the Renaissance, Aldershot, 1998, p. 137; F. Ames-Lewis, The Intellectual Life of the Early Renaissance Artist, New Haven, 2000, pp. 163–4.

24     Freedberg, p. 3.

25     Contemporary hunting scenes can be seen in the prints of Antonio Tempesta, who published a series of etchings on the theme in 1595. These prints introduced a new category of subject matter to Roman printmaking, indicating that the theme of a contemporary hunting scene would have been innovative and unusual in Parmigianino’s lifetime (see M. Bury, ‘Antonio Tempesta as printmaker: Invention, drawing and technique’, in Drawing 1400–1600: Invention and Innovation, ed. Stuart Currie, Aldershot, 1998, pp. 190–1).

26     The sculpture of the Arch of Constantine was known in the Renaissance by artists who visited Rome, and through copies. See Bober and Rubinstein, Renaissance Artists and Antique Sculpture: A Handbook of Sources, London and Oxford, 1986, pp. 214–16. Pteryges also occur in Mantegna’s engraving of The Triumph of Caesar, which was copied by Parmigianino (see Ekserdjian, ‘Parmigianino and Mantegna’s Triumph of Caesar, Burlington Magazine, vol. CXXXIV, 1992, pp. 100–1).

27     Freedberg, p. 16.

28     Hall, p. 157. A similar horn to that winded in the Huntsman drawing occurs in an old copy of a lost Parmigianino drawing entitled A nude bearded man blowing a curved horn, and two putti (Popham, 1971, old copy 53), Popham considering the original to be a presentation drawing (see Popham, 1971, p. 242). The closest existing instrument to Parmigianino’s creation is the Jewish shofar, made from a heat-moulded ram’s horn.

29     L. Dolce & M. Roskill, Dolce’s Aretino and Venetian Art Theory of the Cinquecento, ed. M. Roskill, New York, 1968, p. 183.

30     Vaccaro, 1998, pp. 138–9.

31     Vaccaro, ‘Beauty and identity in Parmigianino’s Portraits’, in Fashioning Identities in Renaissance Art, ed. M. Rogers, Aldershot, 2000, p. 63; Vaccaro, 1998, p. 139.

32     See Dolce & Roskill, pp. 12–13.

33     E. Cropper, ‘The place of beauty in the High Renaissance and its displacement in the history of art’, in Place and Displacement in the Renaissance, ed. A. Vos, New York, 1995, pp. 174–5.

34     F. Petrarch, The Rime Sparse and Other Lyrics, trans. & ed. R. M. Burling, Cambridge & London, 1976, lines 147–60.

35     S. Maddox. Petrarch’s Metamorphoses, Columbia, 1985, p. 27.

36     ibid., pp. 24–5.

37     See Popham, 1971, cat. no. 748, recto.

38     Cropper, 1995; Vaccaro 1990,2001; Beguin, 2000.

39     Beguin 2000, p. 15.

40     D. Ekserdjian, ‘Unpublished drawings by Parmigianino: Towards a supplement to Popham’s catalogue raisonné’, Apollo, vol. CL, 1999, p. 38; Popham, ‘The Baiardo inventory’, Studies in Renaissance and Baroque Art Presented to Anthony Blunt on His 60th Birthday,London and New York, 1967, pp. 28–9.

41     For example, the Vienna Cupid and the London Ganymede drawing, amongst others (see J. Saslow, in Renaissance-Homosexuality in Art & Society, New Haven and London, 1986, p. 102). Paul Barolsky considers this special focus on the male buttocks as part of a ‘pervasive phenomenon in the art of the sixteenth century (which has remained outside the compass of traditional iconographical considerations)’. This phenomenon termed by Detlef Heikamp as buchismo (Heikamp used this term in conversation with Barolsky), is an element Barolsky identifies in works by Parmigianino, as well as in Bronzino’s Venus, cupid, folly and time (National Gallery, London), and Baldassare Peruzzi’s The purge of Mercury (Louvre, Paris), among other examples (see P. Barolsky, Infinite Jest: Wit and Humour in Italian Renaissance Art, Columbia, 1978, p. 90).

42     The most famous example of this demand being Giulio Romano’s I modi, from which Parmigianino drew a study (Ekserdjian, 1999, no. 71.) (see B. Talvacchia, Taking Positions: On the Erotic in Renaissance Culture, New Jersey, 1999, pp. 72–3).