The Poetry of Parmigianino’s “Schiava Turca”


(Renaissance lute music) – Among the most remarkable portraits of the Italian Renaissance is
Parmigianino’s Schiava Turca. The artist called Parmigianino, after Parma where he was born, painted the portrait in
the early to mid 1530s. This is the first time
the painting has traveled to the United States. It’s rarely been seen outside Italy. So, we are very grateful to
the Galleria nazionale di Parma for lending us its beloved painting. Like many portraits of
the Italian Renaissance we’re not sure who this
beautiful woman is. She’s called the Schiava Turca which means Turkish slave. But perhaps the only
thing we know about her is that she’s neither Turkish nor a slave. The fantastical name was
invented in the 18th Century. Some of her costume was
mistakenly identified, such as her turban-like headdress, ostrich feather fan, and chain embedded in her sleeve, and she was called a Turkish slave. In reality what she’s wearing
is sumptuous, luxurious, and of the highest fashion worn by Italian Renaissance women. That’s including the
magnificent, bulbous headdress which is called a balzo. Scholars have proposed many
ideas about who she might be. A bride, a member of
various noble families, even that she’s not an actual women at all but an ideal woman, invented
for male viewers to enjoy. She looks at us playfully but also directly, knowingly. Is she merely an object of beauty or could she also be something more? A new possibility for who she might be, which we propose in this exhibition, is related to poetry. In the Renaissance, beautiful
women and their portraits were often see as muses who inspired male poets and painters. And the Schiava Turca seems
to be connected to poetry even more explicitly. On her headdress she wears an
ornament of a winged horse. The quintessential symbol
of poetic inspiration. But maybe rather than a muse
who inspires male poets, she could herself be a poet. After all she wears the very
emblem of poetic inspiration on her own head. Visitors to the Frick have
a chance to look closely at Parmigianino’s exquisite
handling of paint, which is in some ways itself poetic. Gilt thread elaborately stitched, puffs and fluffs of feather, delicately woven silk, all in paint. The Schiava Turca is in
good company at the Frick. Surrounding her in the Oval Room are treasured Renaissance portraits of men from the Frick’s own collection,
by Titian and Bronzino, as well as another
stunning portrait of a man also by Parmigianino on loan
from a private collection. It’s not often that
portraits by Parmigianino can be seen in America. In fact, none of his portraits
are in any public collection in the country. This is a rare opportunity
to experience in the flesh the art of one of the
great portrait painters of the Italian Renaissance. The exhibition is on view in the Oval Room until July 20, 2014. For more information, please
visit our website frick.org. (Renaissance lute music)

3 thoughts on “The Poetry of Parmigianino’s “Schiava Turca”

  1. Captivating…
    Deep, caring eyes…
    Her looks…
    Her smile…
    Deep, warm…
    Luxurious, direct…
    Energizing, capturing our attentions…
    ©…Aronne

  2. Ottimo libro della casa farmaceutica Menarini sul Parmigianino con il copertina la schiava turca🎨😄!

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