Girolamo Francesco Maria Mazzola (known as Parmigianino) Antea


Museo e Real Bosco di Capodimonte




880 x 1350 mm



historical period


Exhibit Artwork

Artwork Details

The painting depicts a beautiful young woman, standing and wearing elegant clothes. The woman is portrayed from knees up and her left hand is resting on her chest. The dark hair is gathered in a braid crown and embellished with a refined jewelry piece with pearl, leaving her extended face with regular features completely uncovered. The woman is wearing an elegant dress with wide puff sleeves, made of brocade gold satin, embellished with an elaborate apron, known as zinale, which sewn over the skirt and made of light and pleated fabric, popular in the 16th-century northern Italy. The young woman wears jewelry and a stole made of marten or mink, which goes down to her hand, covered by a soft glove and holding a gold chain. The beautiful portrait is traditionally identified as a representation of Antea, Parmigiano’s lover. Antea was a courtesan who lived in Rome in the first half of the 16th century, and who had a relationship with Parmigianino when he stayed in Rome between 1524 and 1527, as remembered by Pietro Aretino and Benvenuto Cellini. Her identity remains unknown, although some critics think she was a courtesan because of the deep neckline of her precious dress, which would have not suited a noble lady. According to other scholars she was an aristocrat from Parma. Certainly, the lady of the portrait is the same woman Parmigiano portrayed in his masterpiece, Madonna with the Long Neck, with the figure on the right. The mysterious painting and the intense and enigmatic look of the woman is extremely important, because it documents the artist’s interest in depicting the movement of human body and how it deforms if it is reflected on curves surfaces such as mirrors. The artist deepened these studies in the 1530s’ when returned to Parma after staying Rome and Bologna, which can be seen in his famous self-portrait preserved in Vienna and he continued them with Antea. If you look closely at the figure, you can tell that is only apparently still. Despite the firm and still face, the right arm and the shoulder with the fur have larger proportions and they have the effect of greater amplitude compared to the left side of the body. The slight movement of the legs, the right hand moving forward and the left moving back underline this effect. It seems like the apparently still figure under the heavy robe was actually moving to turn towards the viewer. The effect is accentuated by the dark green background, illuminated by the light coming from bottom right, which seems to reveal the unnoticeable movement. This type of shortened image was evident in his other works from the early 1530s’, as in the aforementioned Madonna with the Long Neck, which confirms the date of Antea to this period. In his Viaggio pittoresco d’Italia from 1671 Giacomo Barri described the work in Parma in Palazzo del Giardino, while a few years later, in 1680, the painting was mentioned in the inventory of the Farnese collections located in Parma. Elisabetta Farnese, the last descendant of the noble family, left the painting to her son Charles of Bourbon, king of Naples from 1734, and for this reason the painting was brought to Naples.

Artist Details

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A member of an art family – his father Filippo and his uncles were painters, even if they were not as talented as him – Parmigianino was born in Parma where he had his artistic training.

His first important commission probably dates back to the frescoes of the church of San Giovanni Evangelista in Parma, around 1522, where he worked with Correggio decorating the dome, as well as the chapels with St. Agatha and the Executioner and his two Reading Deacons.

The following year, between 1523 and 1524, Parmigianino was busy decorating the heater, that is, the bathroom of Rocca Sanvitale in Fontanellato, near Parma, with the Stories of Diana and Actaeon, which were already characterized by the elegance of the elongated figures, typical of his work.

Shortly after he traveled to Rome with his uncle, where he studied the works of Raphael and met his students, in particular Perin del Vaga, but also other painters such as Sebastiano del Piombo and Rosso Fiorentino.

The works that date back to the Roman period are the Holy Family with Young St. John (Naples, Capodimonte museum) and the Vision of St. Jerome, where the exaggeratedly long figures with elegant gestures were already an established element of his painting.

The sack of Rome by the Landsknechte in 1527 forced the artist to leave city and go to Bologna. There he stayed between 1527 and 1530 painting the refined Madonna della Rosa, preserved today at the Gemäldegalerie in Dresden and Madonna di Santa Margherita (Bologna, Pinacoteca Nazionale) as well as the Conversion of Saint Paul and the Expulsion of Heliodorus from the Temple.

In 1530 the artist returned to Parma, to paint the frescoes of Madonna della Steccata, the sanctuary that was built to celebrate the victory over the French in 1521, on which he worked from 1531 to 1539 with some difficulties with the client who had commissioned the work. Here Parmigianino painted the Wise Virgins and the Foolish Virgins, but the commissioners of the fresco complained about his slowness carrying out the work and he spent two months in prison for non-compliance.

Once out of prison he left Parma and the frescoes, which he never finished, as well as some unfinished paintings, among them Madonna with the Long Neck, his masterpiece, which is preserved today at the Uffizi Galleries. Parmigianino arrived to Casalmaggiore, where he fell ill with malaria, which caused his death in 1540.

Collection Details

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The collection of Capodimonte has the origins in the refined and elegant collection of the Farnese family. The first assemblage was formed in 1534 thanks to the initiative of Alessandro Farnese (1520-1589) and Pope Paul III, both interested in ancient objects (conserved today in the Museo Archeologico Nazionale of Naples) and the most important artists of the period.

In 1734 Charles III of Spain took the throne and inherited mother Elisabetta Farnese’s collection which was moved from Rome to Parma during the 18th century. In this occasion he felt the need to find a suitable location for the collection.

The construction of the Capodimonte building on the hill started in 1738 and it was used both as a residence and as a gallery. The place was first only visited by famous persons, such as Johann Winckelmann, Antonio Canova and Marquis de Sade.

The museum was inaugurated in 1957, thanks to the insistence of Ferdinando Bologna Raffaello Causa, opening to the public extensive collection of 2900 paintings, 150 sculptures, 17700 objects of decorative art, 26000 drawings, extended over 12000 square meters and divided into 114 rooms.

During the 18th century, the collection was enriched with the works commissioned by the sovereigns of the Bourbon family, but the lootings by French troops in 1799 marked the beginning of decline as its function as a museum.

In the 19th century the building was mostly used as a residence. French general Joachim Murat lived in the building with his wife and they brought new furnishing and interior decorations to Capodimonte.

Only after the arrival of the Savoys and thanks to Annibale Sacco, the new era of the museum started: the art objects which were spread in various residences of the Bourbon family were collected and moved to Capodimonte and there was a new attention to contemporary figurative production of art.

For this reason, there are two main groups in the collection. The Farnese collection includes the portraits of Cardinal Alessandro Farnese, Giorgio Vasari and Andrea del Sarto by Raphael, portrait of Bernardo de’ Rossi by Lorenzo Lotto, portraits of Paul III and Paul III with his Grandsons Alessandro and Ottavio Farnese and Danae by Titian, Portrait of Antea by Parmigianino and the cartoons by Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci and pictorial cycles of Carracci, donated in 1600 by Fulvio Orsini. The second collection includes the historical pieces of Neapolitan art from circa 1200 to 1700. Among them are the works by Simone Martini and Colantonio’s St. Jerome, an example of the lively and rich Aragon period, and the works of foreign influence such as Pinturicchio’s Assumption of the Virgin. The 17th century was considered as the golden era of Neapolitan art, influenced by the works of Caravaggio and his followers. From this era there are Caravaggio’s Flagellation from 1606-1607, Ribera’s Drunken Silenus, Artemisia Gentileschi’s Judith and Holofernes, Guido Reni’s Atalanta and Hippomenes and Mattia Preti’s St. Sebastian.

The current layout of the museum is a result of the series of restorations in the 1980s’ and 1990s’ which determined the division of the collection onto three floors. The ground floor includes the educational rooms, the mezzanine floor holds the department of drawings and prints, the Farnese collection, the Borgia collection and the royal apartment are in the first floor and finally on the second floor the Neapolitan gallery, the D’Avalos collection, the 19th century gallery and the photographic gallery.