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Parmigianino (Girolamo Francesco Maria Mazzola; 1503–1540)
Prometheus Animating Man, ca. 1524–27
Pen and brown ink, brown wash, over black chalk
5 3/8 x 6 1/16 inches (135 x 154 mm)
Purchased by Pierpont Morgan, 1909; IV, 45
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The subject of the present drawing was likely inspired by a passage in Boccaccio's Genealogia deorum gentilium (On the Genealogy of the Gods of the Gentiles), which draws a parallel between Prometheus and God. Set against a dramatic sky, Prometheus opens his arms in an all-embracing gesture to reach the sun's chariot and obtain the spark that will enliven the clay man who sits in front of him, modeled in his image. The gesture recalls that of the figure of God in Michelangelo's Creation of Man on the Sistine Chapel ceiling. Popular during the Renaissance, the ancient Greek myth of Prometheus visualizes the intense belief in the near-godlike abilities of man.

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The programs of The Morgan Library & Museum are made possible with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

Background images: Photography by Todd Eberle unless otherwise noted. © 2006 Todd Eberle.