As required of Jewish males, Jesus was brought to the temple on the eighth day after birth to be circumcised. In addition to the child receiving his Hebrew name, the ceremony marked the covenant between the Jews and God. Parmigianino celebrates this moment by contrasting the pale light of the moon (visible in the background) with the brilliance emanating from the child's halo. This latter light represents both spiritual grace and a physical phenomenon; it is used to define the modeling of the attenuated and exaggerated figures and to effect the color tonations. The descriptive liberties taken by the artist—the exaggeration of proportions and the disregard for linear perspective—are characteristic of his early mannerist style.
Artist Parmigianino, Italian, 1503-1540
  • The Circumcision
Date ca. 1523
Medium oil on wood panel
Dimensions Unframed: 16 1/2 × 12 3/8 inches (41.9 × 31.4 cm)
Framed: 22 7/8 × 19 1/4 × 2 inches (58.1 × 48.9 × 5.1 cm)
Credit Line Gift of Axel Beskow
Accession Number 30.295
Department European Painting
On View European: Medieval and Renaissance W233, Level 2 (see map)
Pope Clement VII;
Emperor Charles V.
1577, King Philip II (El Escorial, Spain);
until 1809, Convent of the Rosary (Madrid, Spain);
until 1814, Real Academia de San Fernando (Madrid, Spain);
Eugène Beauharnais, Duke of Leuchtenberg and Prince of Eichstadt [1781-1824] (Munich, Germany);
by inheritance to his son, Auguste, Duke of Leuchtenberg [1810-1835] (Munich, Germany);
by inheritance to his brother, Maximilian, Duke of Leuchtenberg [1817-1852] (Munich, Germany);
by inheritance to his widow, Maria Nikolaevna, Grand Duchess of Russia [1819-1876] (St. Petersburg, Russia);
by inheritance to her son, Georges (St. Petersburg, Russia);
until 1917, Leuchtenberg collection (St. Petersburg, Russia);
1917, acquired largely en bloc by (A.B. Nordiska Kompaniet, Stockholm, Sweden);
Axel Beskow (Sweden);
1930-present, by exchange with the Detroit Institute of Arts (Detroit, Michigan, USA)
Catalogue des tableaux de la Galerie de feu son altesse royale monseigneur le Prince Eugène Duc de Leuchtenberg à Munich. Munich, 1825, p. 29, no. 42.

Verzeichness der Bildergallerie...des Prinzen Eugene, Herzogs von Leuchtenberg in München. Munich, 1825, p. 29. no. 42.

Gemälde-Sammlung in München seiner königl. Hoheit des Dom Augusto Herzogs von Leuchtenberg und Santa Cruz Fursten von Eichstädt...herausgegeben von J.W. Muxel. Munich, 1835--, no. 55.

Muxel, J. Verzeichness der Bilder-Gallerie seiner koeniglichen Hoheit des Prinzen Eugene, Herzogs von Leuchtenberg. Munich, 1843, no. 55.

Passavant, J.D. Gemälde-Sammlung seiner Kaiserlichen Hoheit des Herzogs von Leuchtenberg in München, 2nd ed. Munich, 1851, no. 59.

Waagen, G.F. Die Gemäldsammlungen in der Kaiserlichen Eremitage zu St. Petersburg. St. Petersburg, 1864, pp. 373-374.

Kompaniet, A.B. Nordiska Lechtenbergska Tavelsamlingen. Stockholm, 1917, no. 21.

Heil, W. "A Painting by Parmigianino." Bulletin of the DIA 11 (May 1930): pp. 109-112 (ill.).

Heil, W. Catalogue of Paintings in the Permanent Collection of the Detroit Institute of Arts. Detroit, 1930, cat. 165 (ill.). [ca. 1523.]

Copertini, G. Il Parmigianino, vol. 1. Parma, 1932, pp. 42, 55.

Copertini, G. Aemilia, I, 1928, p. 42. [as copy of lost original.]

Berenson, B. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance. Oxford, 1932, p. 433. [as an early work.]

Quintavalle, A.O. L'Arte 5 (1943): pp. 237-249, pp. 243-244. [as a copy.]

Berenson, B. Pitture italiane del rinascimento. Milan, 1936, p. 372. [as a youthful work.]

Heil, W., ed. Detroit Institute of Arts Catalogue of Paintings. Detroit, 1930, no. 165 (ill.). [ca. 1523.]

Richardson, E.P., ed. Detroit Institute of Arts Catalogue of Paintings, 2nd ed. Detroit, 1944, p. 100, no. 165.

Quintavalle, A.O. "Falsi e veri del Parmigianino giovane." Emporium 108, no. 646 (October 1948): pp. 184-197, p. 191 (fig. 7). [as a copy of lost original.]

Quintavalle, A.O. Il Parmigianino. Milan, 1948, pp. 37-38, 102, pl. 23. [as copy of lost original.]

Freedberg, S.J. Parmigianino, His Works in Painting. Cambridge, MA, 1950, pp. 50, 159-160.

Bacou, R. Dessins de l'école de Parme: Corrége, Parmesan (33rd exposition du Cabinet des Dessins). Exh. cat., Musée du Louvre. Paris, 1964, p. 50.

Paintings in the Detroit Institute of Arts: A Checklist of the Paintings Acquired Before June 1965. Detroit, 1965, p. 84.

Berenson, B. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance: A List of the Principal Artists and Their Works with an Index of Places. Central Italian and North Italian Schools, vol. 1 (text). London, 1968, p. 319.

Popham, A.E. Catalogue of the Drawings of Parmigianino. New Haven, 1971, p. 136.

Fredericksen, B. and F. Zeri. Census of Pre-19th Century Italian Paintings in North American Collections. Cambridge, MA, 1972, p. 159. [as a copy of lost original.]

Freedberg, S.J. "Parmigianino's Circumcision." Bulletin of the DIA 55, no. 3 (1977): pp. 129-132 (ill.)(cover, text).

Cummings, F., ed. Selected Works from the Detroit Institute of Arts. Detroit, 1979, p. 138, cat. 111 (ill.).

The Age of Correggio and the Carracci, Emilian Painting of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries. Exh. cat., Pinacoteca Nazionale, et al. Bologna, 1986, pp. 161-162, cat. 57 (ill.).

Freedberg, S.J. "Parmigianino problems in the exhibition (and related matters)." In Emilian Painting of the 16th and 17th Centuries: A Symposium. Washington, D.C., and Bologna, 1987, pp. 37-48, pp. 37-39.

Hoetink, H.R., ed. The Royal Picture Gallery Maurithuis, Amsterdam. New York, p. 415.

Di Giampaolo, M. Parmigianino. Catalogo completo. Florence, 1991, pp. 42-43, cat. 8.

Gould, C. Parmigianino. New York, 1994, pp. 21, 42, 55, 183, cat. A6 (fig. 28). [ca. 1522.]

Freedberg, Sydney J. "Il Parmigianino." La Pittura in Emilia e in Romagna Il Cinquecento, Nuovo Alfa Ediotoriale. 1995, pp. 69-87, pp. 76, 78-79 (ill.).

Ekserdjian, D. Correggio. New Haven, 1997, p. 209 (fig. 214).

Manero, J.M.R. "La Circuncisión de Parmigianino estuvo en el Escorial." Archivo espagnol de Arte, no. 281 (1998): pp. 75-78 (fig. 5).

Béguin, S., M. Di Giampaolo, and M. Vaccaro. Parmigianino, The Drawings. Torino, 2000, p. 67, pl. VI (fig. 12).

Vaccaro, M., Parmigianino, The Paintings. Torino, 2002, pp. 137-139, cat. 8, pls. XVIII-XX, (figs. 8, 8a-8b).

Parmigianino e il manierismo europeo. Exh. cat., Galleria Nazionale and Kunsthistorisches Museum. Parma and Vienna, 2003, pp. 184-185, cat. 2.2.3 (ill.), pp. 220-221, cat. II.2.4 (ill.). [as Parmigianino und der europäische Manierismus.]

The Art of Parmigianino. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Canada and the Frick Collection. Ottawa and New York, 2003, pp. 106-112, cat. 20 (ill.).

Vaccaro, M. "Parmigianino Ottawa and New York (Review)." Burlington Magazine 146, no. 1213 (April 2004): pp. 284-286, p. 284 (fig. 80).

Butterfield, A. "The Visionary." New York Review of Books, April 8, 2004, p. 18 (ill.), pp. 18, 20, 22.