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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Art Historians Dont Know History

Art historians don't know history

Why would Parmigianino ever want to paint a flattering portrait of Charles V?

1. Charles V's Imperial German Protestant troops sacked Rome in 1527.

2. This ended Parmigianino's established life in the Eternal City and ruined his opportunity for even greater commissions there.

3. They confiscated his drawings for ransom.

4. They humiliated Pope Clement his potential benefactor.

5. Charles V was born in Ghent in 1500. So in 1527 he is still a young man but with control of a vast portion of Europe including Austria, Burgundy, the Netherlands, Spain, Mexico and he has been elected Holy Roman Emperor. Also he is able to capture Francis I in 1525 and exact a massive tribute that includes his sister's marriage to this humiliated French King. He is even able to prevent Henry VIII from divorcing his Aunt Catherine. His power seems to be limitless. But none of this power is earned. It is all inherited.

There was no way that Charles could have been crowned Holy Roman Emperor in Rome because there was no way that the Roman people could have been remotely enthusiastic. So the decision was made by Clement VII to have the Holy ROMAN Emperor's coronation ceremony somewhere else. What a farce!

Parmigianino was a proud, narcissistic genius. He clearly saw that this ceremony was a sham forced upon him as did every other Italian. All Italians were enraged but had no power to exact vengeance from the man who possessed the most powerful Army in Europe.

Of course Parmigianino is going to show Charles V in a very unflattering way. His painting is a masterful cartoon filled with imperfections topped off with a clownish rendering of Charles's face.

Charles and his retinue immediately saw what Parmigianino had intended and did not accept the painting. And Parmigianino was not paid.

For over 2000 years Italians have been the masters of cutting sarcasm and subtle insult. This autograph portrait of Charles is a masterpiece of this genre by one of her most talented sons.

For the community of art historians to question the judgment of the first of their kind - Vasari - is hubris of the highest order.

The painting is right.

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