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

The Vision of St Jerome

1527
Oil on panel, 343 x 149 cm
National Gallery, London

The painting was commissioned by Maria Bufalini for her husband's family chapel at S. Salvatore in Lauro, Rome. The commission required the presence of two saints in the lower part: St John the Baptist was the patron saint of Maria's father-in-law, while Jerome was chosen because of his connection with the legal profession practiced by both her husband and his father. The artist chose to separate the two saints, with the Baptist dominating the lower portion while Jerome is shown sleeping to suggest that the painting represents his vision. John looks out and with an exaggerated gesture directs us to the Virgin and Child, who are floating in midair, a position that becomes popular in the sixteenth century. The complex and trained pose of the Baptist, the emphasis on foreshortened forms, and the long, unusually proportioned figures are all typical of Mannerist art.