|Ritratto di Camilla Gonzaga coi tre figli, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid.|
Camilla Gonzaga (1500, Vescovato – 1585, San Secondo Parmense), daughter of Giovanni Gonzaga, signore di Vescovato and Laura Bentivoglio. Lavishly dowried, she married the imperial general Pier Maria III de' Rossi conte di San Secondo in 1523. The marchesa consorte di San Secondo appears to have been a power in her own right, adept at deal-making and diplomacy while her husband was frequently off at war.
The pair had ten children together and she is shown here with three of their six sons, most likely Troilo, Ippolito, and Federigo. Parmigianino is the undisputed author of a portrait of the conte di San Secondo, this painting's pendant. But there is speculation that he only sketched out the design for this work, and that it was completed by other hands; an artist from the studio of Bronzino has been been put forward as one of the possibilities. Additionally, it is thought that the three boys were added later than the portrait of their mother, and by different artists and at different times. The faces of the two boys on the left, with what looks to be the dark background visible beneath the flesh tones, would appear to support that argument.
All that said, what would this painting be without the beautiful, pensive faces of the children, the three opposing and poetic depictions of gaze, the graceful compositional pattern of interconnection, the tender, clinging dance of the three boys around their beautiful, formidable mother?
Girolamo Francesco Maria Mazzola, most commonly known as Parmigianino: "the little one from Parma" (11 January 1503, Parma – 24 August 1540, Casalmaggiore), important Italian Mannerist painter and printmaker. Raised by his uncles, who were modestly talented artists, he was successful from an early age. Active in Florence, Rome, Bologna, and his native city of Parma, he died of a fever at the age of only thirty-seven.