Friday, December 16, 2016

Bronzino: Paintings

Agnolo di Cosimo Mariano di Tori (1503-1572) is known today by his nickname among the swains of sixteenth-century Florence, Bronzino. His father is said to have been a butcher, but he must have been a very successful one, because Bronzino was apprenticed to a successful painter and was soon running with a set of wealthy and stylish young men.

Detail of the above, showing some issues with the colors.

By the early 1520s Bronzino was doing independent work within the studio of his master, Jacopo Pontormo. His first surviving paintings date from around 1530. This is one of those early works, and one of my favorite portraits. The subject is not known. He must have been part of Bronzino's literary circle, men who (like Bronzino) wrote sonnets in the mode of Petrarch and debated the merits of ancient vs. modern poetry. Notice the grotesque heads on the furniture, which must be some sort of inside joke.

Detail. The Uffizi gallery says:
Bronzino’s works have been described as “icy” portraits that put an abyss between the subject and the viewer. 
I see what they mean but I think the iciness tells us something important about the subjects.

Details from The Holy Family.

In about 1540 Bronzino became court painter to the Medici family, who by that time had abolished the Republic and made themselves Dukes. Above, detail of Duke Cosimo I in Armor.

Eleonora di Toledo, Duke Cosimo's Duchess. According to Vasari, a contemporary witness, the Duchess loved Bronzino's work and especially this portrait.

Leo X, the Medici Pope, c. 1560. Despite Bronzino's reputation for slick, cold portraits lacking in character, I find this one bursting with personality.

And Pope Clement VII.

Details from one of his large religious frescoes, Christ's Descent into Limbo.

Maria Salviati, detail.

And one more, Lodovico Capponi, c. 1555.

1 comment:

G. Verloren said...

I'm a bit put off by the way he seems to give most of his portraits severe cases of walleye.

I'm not sure what to make of it. Is it poor technique, simply failing to properly capture the subtleties of the human eye at certain angles? Is it a stylistic or aesthetic choice, purposefully exaggerating the same? Or could it perhaps actually be accurate to reality, and in fact many of the people he painted did simply suffer from stabismus / heterotropia?

It's especially strange and problematic because it is so inconsistant. Some of the selected portraits look unremarkable, some look only very slightly off, and some display almost absurdly severe misalignment. Cosimo I in particular looks like he took a terrible blow to the head with a mace - which in the context of Italy in that age would make sense, except that Cosimo wasn't a soldier, but rather a bureaucrat. Overall, I'm perplexed.