Agnolo Bronzino (Agnolo di Cosimo) (1503-72),
was a Florentine Mannerist painter, the pupil and adopted son of Pontormo,
who introduced his portrait as a child into his painting
Joseph in Egypt
(National Gallery, London).
The origin of his nickname is uncertain, but possibly
derived from his having a dark complexion. Bronzino was deeply attached
to Pontormo and his style was heavily indebted to his master. However,
Bronzino lacked the emotional intensity that was such a characteristic
of Pontormo's work and excelled as a portraitist rather than a religious
painter. He was court painter to Duke Cosimo I de Medici for most of his
career, and his work influenced the course of European court portraiture
for a century. Cold, cultured, and unemotionally analytical, his portraits
convey a sense of almost insolent assurance.
Bronzino was also a poet, and his most personal portraits
are perhaps those of other literary figures
(Laura Battiferri, Palazzo Vecchio, Florence, c.1560).
He was less successful as a religious painter, his lack of real feeling
leading to empty, elegant posturing, as in
The Martyrdom of S. Lorenzo (S. Lorenzo, Florence, 1569),
in which almost every one of the extraordinarily contorted poses can be
traced back to
whom Bronzino idolized. It is the type of work that got Mannerism a bad name.
Bronzino's skill with the nude was better deployed in the celebrated
Venus, Cupid, Folly, and Time (National Gallery, London),
which conveys strong feelings or eroticism under the pretext of a moralizing
allegory. His other major works include the design of a series of tapestries on
The Story of Joseph
for the Palazzo Vecchio.
He was a much respected figure who took a prominent part
in the activities of the Accademia del Disegno, of which he was a founder
member in 1563. His pupils included Alessandro Allori, who — in a
curious mirroring of his own early career — was also his adopted son.
The image accompanying this article is a detail from
Bronzino's, “Descent of Christ Into Limbo,” painted in 1552
and in the Refectory in Santa Croce (see image, below). This fresco includes
many likenesses of Florentines contemporary to the artist. The figure in
the foreground in blue strongly resembles Eleonora of Toledo. Also depicted
are other Renaissance painters, Pontormo and Bacchiacca, literary writer,
Gelli, and a self portrait of Bronzino himself (Gaston, Robert W.
“Iconography and Portraiture in Bronzino's
‘Christ in Limbo.’”
Mitteilungen des Kunsthistorischen Institutes in Florenz 27 (1983): 41-72.).