The harmonic and orderly forms of the Renaissance gave way in the 16th century to the Mannerist style where the canon of proportionality that had governed the Renaissance aesthetic was changing over time, naturalism gave way to forced postures and impossible twists that were echoed the innovations of the most daring artists, in this context we should point out the work of one of the main representatives of Mannerist aesthetics,Girolano Francesco Maria Masola, known by the nickname of El Parmigianino.
Parmigianino (1503 – 1540) was one of the most representative figures of Mannerist aesthetics and his works were very successful even in his own time. Coming from a family of painters, the artist seems to have begun his training in the workshop of his uncles, the Mazzola brothers, however his stay there was quite short since he soon moved to the Corregio workshop. One of the most decisive events in his career occurred in the mid-twenties when the artist settled in Rome and was able to see first-hand the paintings of Raphael and especially Michelangelo.
The work that concerns us here, The Conversion of Saint Paul, dates from the end of this stage, around the year 1527 when, after The Sack of Rome, the artist decided to move to Bologna. The first information we have about this work by Parmigianino comes from Vasari whoin his work Life of the most famous Italian architects, painters and sculptors, he mentions the work that concerns us here as part of the decoration of the house of one of the great Italian noblemen Giovanni Andrea. Once he had died, the canvas passed to the Leoni collection, which is why its time in Spain is known and finally it fell to Vienna, since then the work has been exhibited in the Museum of Art History in the capital.
It is a canvas of mannerist character and vertical format that almost reaches one hundred and eighty centimeters in height and just over one hundred and twenty-five centimeters in width; Painted in oil on canvas, the work represents one of the most outstanding moments of Christianity, the conversion of Saul. In this episode Saint Paul, who was dedicated to persecuting Christians, fell from his horse when he saw a blinding ray of light and converted to Christianity, being one of the main spreaders of the word of God.
In the image the artist presents us with the apostle on the ground, with an exaggerated posture and great movement. His muscular body and excessively elongated proportions speaks to us of Mannerist aesthetics. In his eyes you can see the blindness that invades the Roman soldier and the posture of the horse, rearing up and with its head turned towards the viewer, make the work acquire moremovement anddrama. Perhaps the figure of the horse is not too naturalistic, the head is too small, however it is worth highlighting the ermine skin saddle that adorns the animal's rump.