- Museum number
A woman placing a garland around the neck of a winged horse (Philyra and Saturn), another woman standing to right
Pen and brown ink, with brown wash, over black chalk
- Production date
- 1535 (circa)
Height: 170 millimetres
Width: 107 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- Lit.: A.E. Popham, 'Catalogue of the Drawings of Parmigianino', Cambridge, 1971, no. 245, pl. 395; B. Py, 'Everhard Jabach Collectionneur (1618-1695), Les Dessins de Inventaire de 1695', Paris, 2001, no.1115, p. 252; D. Ekserdjian, 'Parmigianino', New Haven and London, 2006, p. 101, fig. 97
The related painting, which was never completed as was often the case during Parmigianino's final decade, reappeared and in 2006 was in the collection of Stanley Moss, New York (Ekserdjian 2006, fig. 99).
Seven other versions of this subject by Parmigianino are known:
(a) Louvre RF 578 (photo. Gernsheim 7024; 1964 Exh. Cat., no. 91 and pl. xix; Fröhlich-Bum, fig. 105). Closest to 1905,1110.8 in design and shape, the main difference being that in the Louvre drawing the woman stands in profile to r. and places the wreath on the horse's head, not round its neck. These and (f) are the only versions to show her completely unclothed.
(b) Louvre 6408 (photo. Gernsheim 7017). A copy (Pp,2.135). Like the Windsor drawing (d) except for the position of the horse's head.
(c) Windsor, Royal Library 0563 (Popham, no. 586 and fig. 126; Popham, 'Parmigianino', pl. lix).
(d) Windsor, Royal Library 0564 (Popham, no. 587 and fig. 127). Corresponds in reverse with an engraving by Schiavone (B. xvi, p. 66, 70).
(e) Chatsworth 788 verso. Three studies on one sheet, in two of which the woman is seated beside the horse which lies on the ground in much the same position as in (b), (c), and (d). A Cupid hovers over one of these pairs and aims his bow and arrow at the woman. In the third sketch she is standing.
(f) An etching, almost certainly by H. van der Borcht (B.M. W. 2-109) and thus presumably after a drawing in the Arundel Collection. There are similar etchings, in reverse, of Louvre 6408 and of both Windsor drawings (B.M. 1851,0308.893 and 894 and W. 2-101 respectively). A copy in the same direction (Pp,2.136). The woman is unclothed, as in 1905,1110.8 and the Louvre drawing (a), but the horse is lying on the ground.
(g) No. 20 in the inventory of the collection of pictures formed by the Cavaliere Bajardi in Parma before 1561 (see Freedberg, pp. 239 ff.) : "un quadro d'una donna ignuda ch'incorona un Cauallo con un puttino appresso bozzata di colore finito alto onde 20 largo onde 12 di mano del Parmesanino". This description corresponds with an engraving by Bernard Lépicié (1698-1755) inscribed "le Parmesan pinx". which reproduces in reverse a composition closely similar to the Louvre drawing (b), except that the woman is naked but for a strip of drapery and that a figure of Cupid is standing on the l.-hand side of the composition. Lesser differences between engraving and drawing are in the position of the horse's head, which is moved nearer the woman so that his muzzle touches her hip, in the gesture of both her hands and in the position of her r. foot (l. in the drawing). Mariette, who knew the original of the engraving when it was in the possession of Louis Boullogne the younger, considered it to be a copy after Parmigianino by Louis Boullogne the elder ('Abecedario', iii, p. 305). According to Pilkington's 'Dictionary' the latter's "principal accomplishments consisted in his ability to copy the works of the most celebrated ancient painters. The similitude between his pictures and the originals was scarcely credible ; and it hath often surprised and puzzled some of the most expert judges." The type and movement of the Cupid are surely too Parmigianinesque for the original to be dismissed as nothing more than a later pastiche : it seems to me on the whole more likely that this engraving reproduces the lost picture from the Baiardi Collection, either directly or (if Mariette is right) through the medium of a faithful copy.
The Baiardi Inventory does not identify the subject of this composition, but Lépicié's engraving is entitled 'Saturne amoureux de Philire se transforme en Cheval pour elle; il en eut le Centaure Chiron'. The one obstacle to this identification is the presence of wings on the horse in 1905,1110.8 and in all the variants of the subject listed above: there seems to be no authority in classical literature for the transformation of Saturn into a winged horse, nor does he so appear in any of the sixteenth-century representations of the subject known to me. These are: an engraving by Caraglio after Rosso which forms part of the series of the 'Loves of the Gods' commissioned by Il Baviera about 1527 (B. xv, p. 76, 23; repr. K. Kusenberg, 'Le Rosso', Paris, 1931, pl. xix) ; a later and entirely different treatment of the subject by Rosso in the Galerie François I at Fontainebleau (Kusenberg, op. cit., pl. xxxv and an anonymous Fontainebleau School engraving, in reverse, dated 1548, B. xvi, p. 398, 57) ; an engraving by Bonasone (B. xv, p. 142, 108); and a small painting at Naples which seems to me to be probably by Bertoja ('Fontainebleau e la maniera italiana, catalogue of exhibition at Naples', 1952, no. 83 and pl. 75).
The obvious alternative interpretation is that the horse is Pegasus and the woman one of the Muses, but it is improbable that a Muse would be represented unclothed; while a further point in favour of the other interpretation is the presence of the hovering Cupid aiming his dart at the woman in one of the sketches on the Chatsworth sheet (e), which must imply that she is enamoured of the horse. Wings were one of Saturn's attributes in late medieval and Renaissance iconography (cf. E. Panofsky, 'Father Time', in 'Studies in Iconology') and Parmigianino may have given them to the horse in order to indicate its identity, for the same reason that Rosso placed a figure of Cupid carrying a scythe, another of Saturn's attributes, in the composition engraved by Caraglio.
The approximate date when Parmigianino was occupied with this composition is suggested by the presence of a study for the vaulting of the Steccata on the recto of the Chatsworth drawing (Popham, 'Parmigianino', pl. liv).
Literature: Quintavalle, p. 200 (register number incorrectly given); Emilian Drawings, no. 49; Popham, Parmigianino, pl. lviii.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2003-4 Oct-Jan, Ottawa, National Gallery of Canada, 'A Beautiful and Gracious Manner:...'
2004 Jan-April, New York, Frick Collection, 'A Beautiful and Gracious Manner:...'
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- The drawing corresponds to one in Jabach's 1695 inventory which later belonged to P-J. Mariette but the absence of any sign of their ownership means that they are not listed here.
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number