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Portrait of a man

Mazzola Francesco called Parmigianino

(Parma 1503 - Casalmaggiore 1540)

This panel is first documented in connection with the Borghese Collection in 1693, when it was inventoried as a work by Parmigianino. Critics have proposed various dates for the work, though it was probably executed in 1528 in Bologna, where the painter sought safety following the Sack of Rome on the part of the Landsknechts, which forced him to surreptitiously leave the Eternal City by night.

The painting is a frontal portrait of a young man who gazes at the observer. His dark attire has led some critics to propose that he was an ecclesiastic. It is also possible that he was a rich gentleman, as suggested by the tricorn hat and the characteristic robone, a type of mantle shaped like a toga.



Object details

1528 ca.
oil on panel
cm 58 x 46

17th-century frame with con cymatium moulding (70.5 x 60.7 x 5.5 cm)


Rome, Borghese Collection, 1693 (Inv. 1693, room IV, no. 32; Della Pergola 1955); Inv. 1790, room VIII, no. 21; Inventario Fidecommissario 1833, p. 34; purchased by Italian state, 1902.


  • 1998-99 Milano, Palazzo Reale:
  • 2003 Parma, Galleria Nazionale;
  • 2003 Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum;
  • 2009-10 Budapest, Szépmuvésti Muzeum.
Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 1917 Tito Venturini Papari, intelaiatura a stecche scorrevoli sul retro della tavola, pulitura e piccoli restauri;
  • 1937 Carlo Matteucci, fissaggio del colore e revisione di restauri gravemente alterati;
  • 1946 Carlo Matteucci, pulitura generale;
  • 1958 Renato Massi,restauro della cornice;
  • 1962-63 Alvaro Esposti, fissaggio di numerose zone di colore e pulitura, stuccatura, ripresa pittorica, verniciatura finale);
  • 1968 Oddo Verdinelli (leggera pulitura con rimozione dei vecchi restauri alterati, ripresa pittorica delle piccole lacune, verniciatura finale;
  • 1978-80 Gianluigi Colalucci, rimozione parchettatura sul retro ed applicazione di traverse scorrevoli; rimozione della vernice e dei ritocchi, pulitura, stuccatura delle lacune, reintegrazioni ad acquarello, verniciatura;
  • 1996-97 Paola Tollo; Carlo Ceccotti, restauro completo dell'opera e della cornice.


This work is documented as forming part of the Borghese Collection from 1693, when it was inventoried at the Palazzo Borghese di Campo Marzio as ‘a painting of approximately three palms on panel, a portrait of Pianerlotto... by Parmigianino’ (Inv. 1693). With the exception of a curious attribution to Annibale Carracci (Quintavalle 1948) and disagreement expressed by Federico Zeri and Maurizio Fagiolo dall'Arco (1970), critics have always concurred in attributing the painting to Francesco Mazzola, the artist from Parma who arrived in Rome in 1524, where he entered into contact with the most important painters of the day, including Sebastiano del Piombo, Polidoro da Caravaggio and Perin del Vaga. As is well known, his stay was suddenly interrupted in 1527 because of the Sack of Rome on the part of the Landsknechts, as a result of which Parmigianino left the Eternal City for Bologna.

While the work was initially dated to 1524-25 (Copertini 1932), David Freedberg (1950) proposed that it was painted immediately after the artist’s arrival in Bologna; his suggestion was accepted and shared by Mario Di Giampaolo (1991), who situated its execution in the years 1528-29, at about the same time as the Madonna and Child with Saint Zechariah of the Uffizi. Anna Coliva (2000) agreed with this dating, noting that the portrait contained similarities with other works of the master’s Bolognese period, such as that sense of dilated surfaces and the setting of the figure toward the outer limits of the painting. More recently, however, Elisabetta Fedda (2009-10) proposed a slightly later date, in the period between 1530 and 1533.

While Freedberg (1950) was the first critic to propose that the subject of the portrait is a cleric, given his dark attire, he may actually be a rich gentleman, as the characteristic mantle and tricorn hat of the same colour would indicate. The close-up framing of the subject could be the result of the trimming of the panel at some point in the past.

Antonio Iommelli

  • G. Piancastelli, Catalogo dei quadri della Galleria Borghese, in Archivio Galleria Borghese, 1891, p. 88;
  • A. Venturi, Il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Roma 1893, p. 77;
  • L. Fröhlich-Bum, Parmigianino und der Manierismus, Wien 1921, p. 31;
  • G. Copertini, Il Parmigianino, Parma 1932, pp. 202, 218;
  • A. Rapetti, Un Inventario delle opere del Parmigianino, in Archivio Storico per le Province Parmensi, V, 1940 p. 39;
  • A. O. Quintavalle, Parmigianino, Milano 1948, pp. 110, 128, 204;
  • A. De Rinaldis, Catalogo della Galleria Borghese, Roma 1948, p. 84;
  • G. J. Freedberg, Parmigianino. His Works in Painting, Cambridge 1950, pp. 111-112, 206-207;
  • P. Della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese in Roma, Milano 1950, p. 41;
  • P. della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese. I Dipinti, I, Roma 1955, pp. 59-60, n. 100;
  • P. della Pergola, L’Inventario Borghese del 1693 (II), in “Arte Antica e Moderna”, XXVIII, 1964, p. 452;
  • A. Hauser, Der Manierismus, Torino 1965, p. 189;
  • B. Berenson, Italian Pictures of the Renaissance-Central Italian and North Italian Schools, London 1968, p. 320;
  • M. Fagiolo dell’Arco, Il Parmigianino, un saggio sull’ermetismo nel Cinquecento, Roma 1970, p. 289;
  • M. Di Giampaolo, Parmigianino. Catalogo competo dei dipinti, Firenze 1991, p. 94, n. 32;
  • A. Coliva, La Galleria Borghese, Roma 1994;
  • S. Santolini, L’anima e il volto: ritratto e fisiognomica da Leonardo a Bacon, catalogo della mostra (Milano, Palazzo Reale, 1998-1999), a cura di F. Caroli, Milano 1998, p. 123;
  • P. Moreno, C. Stefani, Galleria Borghese, Milano 2000, p. 242;
  • M. C. Chiusa, Parmigianino, Milano 2001, p. 95;
  • M. Vaccaro, Parmigianino. I dipinti, Torino 2002, p. 202;
  • A. Coliva, in Parmigianino e il manierismo europeo, catalogo della mostra (Parma, Galleria Nazionale, 2003; Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum, 2003), a cura di L. Fornari Schianchi, S. Ferino-Pagden, Cinisello Balsamo 2003, p. 206, n. II.2.15;
  • K. Herrmann Fiore, Galleria Borghese Roma scopre un tesoro. Dalla pinacoteca ai depositi un museo che non ha più segreti, San Giuliano Milanese 2006, p. 33;
  • E. Fadda, in Botticelli to Titian: two centuries of Italian masterpieces, catalogo della mostra (Budapest, Szépmüvészeti 2009-2010), a cura di D. Sallay, V. Tátrai, A. Vécsey, Budapest 2009, pp. 392-393, n. 122.