Raffael, Madonna di Foligno, 1512-1513, Tempera auf Holz (übertragen auf Leinwand), 308 x 198 cm. Rom, Città del Vaticano, Musei Vaticani, Pinacoteca Vaticana, Inv. Nr. 40329
Parmigianino, Madonna mit Johannes dem Täufer und dem heiligen Hieronymus, 1526/1527, Öl auf Pappelholz, 342,9 x 148,6 cm. London, National Gallery, Inv. Nr. NG33
This 'Study of the Madonna' came from the collection of the founder of the Städel Institute, Johann Friedrich Städel (1728-1816), who owned several drawings by Parmigianino. The Italian painter, whom Giorgio Vasari, the artists' biographer during the Italian Renaissance, described as the "heir to Raphael's soul", was highly regarded during the eighteenth century. The reason for this may be that his elegantly Mannerist art demonstrates a certain proximity to the lightness of the Rococo, but it is also certainly due to Parmigianino's virtuosity in drawing, which had always been universally praised. The sensitive medium of drawing played a special role in the era of enlightenment and sensibility.
In the brush drawing, which is based on a light sketch in black chalk, Parmigianino investigates the work of his role model, Raphael. His Madonna, gazing down from her throne in the clouds, is gently holding the standing child. It can be traced back to Raphael's 'Madonna di Foligno' (ca. 1511/12), who also floats in the clouds. The firm, balanced physicality of Raphael's Madonna and the calm way in which she is seated is transformed in Parmigianino's drawing into a hovering figure striving to rise upwards. The elegant lightness is heightened by the drawing technique, which establishes a relationship between the fine, transparent brushwork transitions to the light colour of the paper, thus creating an effective contrast. This sheet is probably a relatively early study for one of Parmigianino's most important works, now in the National Gallery in London: 'Madonna and Child with Saints' from 1526/27 - but it could also have been produced somewhat later, after the artist was forced to move to Bologna following the Sack of Rome in 1527.
In March 1815, the Frankfurt businessman and banker Johann Friedrich Städel bequeathed his entire fortune and art collection to a foundation which was to be named after him: the 'Städelsches Kunstinstitut'. However, he also dedicated the foundation to the citizens of Frankfurt immaterially, wishing it to be an "adornment and of practical use" to Frankfurt's citizenry. He was thus the first ordinary citizen in the German-speaking region to found a public art museum: the present-day Städel Museum. When he died, his collection comprised 476 paintings, some 4,600 drawings, almost 10,000 printed graphics and valuable books.