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.
  • The Circumcision
Date c. 1523
Medium Oil on panel
Dimensions 16 1/2 x 12 3/8 in.
41.9 x 31.4 cm
Framed dimensions: 22 7/8 in. x 19 1/4 in. x 2 in.
Credit Line Gift of Axel Beskow
Accession Number 30.295
On View European: Medieval and Renaissance W233, Level 2 (see map)
Collection Pope Clement VII (according to D. Ekserdjian);
Collection Emperor Charles V (according to D. Ekserdjian)
Spain, El Escorial, Collection King Philip II as of 1577) according to D. Ekserdjian);
Madrid, Convent of the Rosary (until 1809);
Madrid, Real Academia de San Fernando (until 1814);
Collection, Eugène Beauharnais (who became Duke of Leuchtenberg and Prince of Eichstadt after moving to Munich following Napoleon's defeat in 1815--died 1824);
Munich, by inheritance to his son Auguste, Duke of Leuchtenberg (died 1835);
Munich, by inheritance to his son Maximilian, Duke of Leuchtenberg (in 1839 he married Marie, daughter of Czar Nicholas I--died 1852);
St. Petersburg, by inheritance to his widow, Marie;
St. Petersburg, by inheritance to her son Georges;
St. Petersburg, Leuchtenberg collection until 1917, when acquired largely ¦en bloc¦ by A.B. Nordiska Kompaniet;
Stockholm, A.B. Nordiska Kompaniet, (dealer);
Sweden, Collection Axel Beskow, by exchange with the DIA for a wooden cabinet in its possession.
Catalogue des tableux 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, 1843, no. 55.

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

Waagen, G.F., Die Gemäldsammlungen in der Kaiserlichen Eremitage zu St. Petersburg, St. Petersburg, 1864, pp. 373-4.

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

Heil, W., "A Painting by Parmigianino", Bulletin of the DIA, vol. 11, May 1930, pp. 109-112, repr.

Heil, W., Catalogue of Paintings in the Permanent Collection of The Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, 1930, cat. 165, repr. (dates to artist's early period, 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, vol. 5, 1943, pp. pp. 237-249, esp. pp. 243-44 (as a copy).

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

Heil, W., ed. DIA Catalogue of Paintings, 1930, no. 165, repr (dates picture ca. 1523).

Richardson, E.P. (ed.), DIA, Catalogue of Paintings, (2nd ed.), Detroit, 1944, p. 100, no. 165.

Quintavalle, A. O., "Falsi e veri del Parmigianino giovane," Emporium, vol. 108, no. 646, Oct. 1948, pp. 184-97, esp. 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, 159-60 (as copy after lost original; Freedberg changed his mind in 1977).

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

DIA, Paintings in the DIA: 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 Zeri, F., Census of pre-19th century Italian paintings in North American Collections, Harvard, 1972, p. 159 (as a copy of lost original).

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

Cummings, F., ed. Selected Works from the DIA, Detroit, 1979, p. 138, cat. 111, repr. only with short caption).

Bologna, Pinacoteca Nazionale--Washington, D.C., National Gallery--New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, "The Age of Correggio and the Carracci, Emilian Painting of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries", Sept. 10, 1986-May 24, 1987, pp. 161-62, cat 57, repr. (entry by K. Oberhuber; see also Italian ed.; ascribes picture as one almost certainly given by the artist to Pope Clement VII).

Freedberg, S. J., "Parmigianino problems in the exhbition (and related matters)", Emilian Painting of the 16th and 17th Centuries. A symposium, Washington-Bologna, 1987, pp. 37-48, esp. pp. 37-39.

Hoetink, H.R. (ed.), The Royal Picture Gallery Maurithuis, Amsterdam, New York, p. 415, (DIA picture cited in entry for Mauritshuis copy of Circumcision, no. 324).

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 (dates picture to ca. 1522; ascribes picture as one almost certainly given by the artist to Pope Clement VII).).

Freedberg, Sydney J., "Il Parmigianino," in La Pittura in Emilia e in Romagna Il Cinquecento, Nuovo Alfa Ediotoriale, 1995, pp. 69-87, esp. pp. 76 78-9, repr.

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., Di Giampaolo, M., Vaccaro, M., Parmigianino. The drawings, Torino, 2000, p. 67, plate VI (DIA ptg.), fig. 12 (Louvre drawing related to DIA ptg.)

Vaccaro, M., Parmigianino. The paintings,Torino, 2002, pp. 137-139, cat. 8, plates XVIII-XX, figs. 8, 8a-8b.

Parma, Galleria Nazionale-Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum, "Parmigianino e il manierismo europeo", 2003, pp. 184-185, cat. 2.2.3, repr. ("Parmigianino und der europäische Manierismus", pp. 220-221, cat. II.2.4, repr.)

Ottawa, National Gallery of Canada--New York, Frick Collection, "The Art of Parmigianino", 2003-2004, (exh. organized by D. Franklin), pp. 106-112, cat. 20, repr.

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

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