When an Italian Renaissance artist dies at the age of 37 and leaves some 1000 drawings of exquisite draftsmanship, in addition to his impressive paintings, it is only just that his work be examined on the 500th anniversary of his birth. The Frick Collection is paying such well-deserved homage with a lovely exhibition through April 18, 2004, titled "A Beautiful and Gracious Manner: The Art of Parmigianino."

Organized by the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, the exhibition includes 51 exemplary drawings indicative of the artist's career, seven paintings and works pertaining to his reputation as a founder of Italian Renaissance printmaking. Among his other distinctions he was among the first to make his own prints.

Born in Parma in 1503--he died in 1540--the artist's name was Girolamo Francesco Maria Mazzola, but he came to be known simply as Parmigianino after his native city. As one inspects the various drawings, one finds them remarkable for their delicacy, nuance and detail, and in some cases, there are opportunities to compare the drawing with the artist's larger work. For example, one of the most striking in the collection is a pen and brown ink and brown wash with white heightening drawing (circa 1523-24) titled "Circumcision," depicting the ritual as performed on the Christ child. This comes from the Louvre in Paris. The exhibit also includes the impressive Parmigianino painting of the subject in oil on panel, borrowed from the Detroit Institute of Arts.

Other noteworthy drawings include "Adoration of the Magi," which he did in Bologna between 1527 and 1530, "Virgin and Child," dated to 1526-27, and "Adoration of the Shepherds," in several versions. There are also various designs, including one for a chapel in Rome (1525-27).

In the South Hall of the museum there hangs Parmigianino's powerful portrait of Cardinal Lorenzo Pucci (1529-30), oil on canvas, which is on loan from the National Gallery in London and demonstrates the artist's skill with portraiture. Elsewhere in the exhibit we can also see his conception of himself in self-portrait.

The aforementioned provide only a few highlights of this impressive exhibition, shown to advantage in the intimate Frick. Through April 18 at The Frick Collection, 1 East 70th Street. Phone: 212-288-0700.

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