(b. 1503, Parma, d. 1540, Casal Maggiore)

Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror

c. 1524
Oil on wood, diameter 24,4 cm
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

Giorgio Vasari wrote in his Lives of the Artists on the nineteen years old Parmigianino:

"Then came upon him the desire to see Rome, hearing men greatly praise the works of the masters there, especially of Raffaello and Michael Angelo, and he told his desire to his old uncles. They, seeing nothing in the desire that was not praiseworthy, agreed, but said that it would be well to take something with him which would gain him an introduction to artists. And the counsel seeming good to Francesco, he painted three pictures, two small and one very large. Besides these, inquiring one day into the subtleties of art, he began to draw himself as he appeared in a barber's convex glass. He had a ball of wood made at a turner's and divided in half, and on this he set himself to paint all that he saw in the glass, and because the mirror enlarged everything that was near and diminished what was distant, he painted the hand a little large. Francesco himself, being of very beautiful countenance and more like an angel than a man, his portrait on the ball seemed a thing divine, and the work altogether was a happy success, having all the lustre of the glass, with every reflection and the light and shade so true, that nothing more could be hoped for from the human intellect.

The picture being finished and packed, together with the portrait, he set out, accompanied by one of his uncles, for Rome; and as soon as the Chancellor of the Pope had seen the pictures, he introduced the youth and his uncle to Pope Clement, who seeing the works produced and Francesco so young, was astonished, and all his court with him. And his Holiness gave him the charge of painting the Pope's hall."

The painting was given to Pope Clement VII as a gift by the young artist.