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Parmigianino, born Girolamo Francesco Maria Mazzola in Parma, Italy, became Italy's most influential Mannerist painter in his brief twenty-year career. His father and uncles taught him the techniques of painting, and by age sixteen he had already completed an altarpiece for a local church. Beginning in 1520, the celebrated Renaissance artist Correggio became his primary inspiration. Scholars believe that the younger artist may have assisted Correggio with his frescoes at a church in Parma, where Parmigianino may also have completed his own frescoes. In 1524 Parmigianino visited Rome to present a self-portrait to Pope Clement VII. There the young artist experienced Raphael and Michelangelo's art firsthand, and his style became more grand, elegant, and noble. Following the Sack of Rome in 1527, Parmigianino escaped to Bologna, but within three years he had returned to Parma, where he received a commission to paint frescoes in another church. At this time, according to some accounts, Parmigianino became a devotee of alchemy, transforming himself into a lunatic and completing little work at the church. He was imprisoned after nearly a decade of slow progress but escaped. Scholars believe that Parmigianino was the first Italian artist to make etchings, and his work significantly influenced the art of printmaking.
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