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2014 John Frederick Lewis Award

Edward J. Olszewski

The American Philosophical Society is pleased to award the 2014 John Frederick Lewis Award to Edward J. Olszewski for his monograph Parmigianino's Madonna of the Long Neck: A Grace Beyond the Reach of Art (Memoirs, volume 269). The presentation of the award will take place on April 24 at the Society's 2015 Spring Meeting.

This study is the first to offer a comprehensive overview of Parmigianino’s enigmatic painting of The Madonna of the Long Neck in the Uffizi. It expands previous formalistic discussions to treat the subject in terms of iconography, semiotics, studio practice, and art theory. It is argued that the painting is not merely an example of Mannerist extravagance, but that the Virgin in her extraordinary distension can be explained by a litany in Ecclesiasticus, with her enlargement read as a signifier of her mercy (Misericordia). Parmigianino’s panel is interpreted as an Immaculate Conception. Because the Magisterium had not fully defined the belief as dogma, the theological debate confused the artist and his contemporaries, but also gave them flexibility in their depictions of this abstract doctrine. The painting is situated with others of the subject from Leonardo and Giovanni Bellini to Federico Barocci and El Greco. The Madonna’s pose conforms with feminine decorum as dictated by contemporary treatises on dance and other writings. The subject’s genesis as a theological exercise is traced through the artist’s drawings. The book includes a color frontispiece, as well as a 15-page color insert.

Edward J. Olszewski is Professor Emeritus of Art History at Case Western Reserve University. He retired as Chair of the Department of Art History and as professor in December 2010. He has published a multi-volume corpus of drawings with Harvey Miller, a drawings catalogue (The Draftsman's Eye, 1981), and numerous articles on Renaissance patronage, iconography, and art theory. Dr. Olszewski is the author of Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni (1667-1740) and the Vatican Tomb of Pope Alexander VIII, published by the American Philosophical Society in 2004. Dr. Olszewski’s earlier publication received the 2004 John Frederick Lewis Award.

In 1935 the Society established the John Frederick Lewis Award with funds donated by his widow. The award recognizes the best book or monograph published by the Society in a given year. The selection committee consisted of Glen W. Bowersock (chair), Professor Emeritus of Ancient History, Institute for Advanced Study; Julia Haig Gaisser, Professor Emeritus of Latin, Eugenia Chase Guild Professor Emeritus in the Humanities, Bryn Mawr College; and Noel M. Swerdlow, Professor Emeritus of Astronomy and Astrophysics and of History, University of Chicago.