Agnolo Bronzino of Florence, Italy, known as Il Bronzino, was a Mannerist painter. Mixing styles of the late High Renaissance into the early Baroque period, Mannerists often depicted their subjects in unnatural forms. Bronzino’s works have been described as “icy” portraits that put an abyss between the subject and the viewer.
Bronzino’s real name was Agnolo di Cosimo, and the nickname Bronzino may be attributed to the dark complexions of the subjects in his portraits. He was born in Monticello, just outside Florence and spent most of his life in Florence, rarely leaving the city. After studying with Raffaellino del Garbo, an early Florentine Renaissance painter, Bronzino became a student of Jacopo Pontormo, a founder of the Florentine Mannerist style. It was under Pontormo, that Bronzino was greatly influenced, but was also one of the few students to endure studies under the difficult Andrea del Sarto. It was under both Pontormo and Sarto that Il Bronzino was influenced by Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci; who Pontormo was even a student of.
When the Plague broke out in Florence in 1522, Pontormo took Bronzino to the Certosa di Galuzzo Monastery where they worked on a series of Frescoes together. This was an influential time for him, as he began to gain a reputation working for the Duke or Urbino. He returned to Florence in 1532 and completed his own Fresco, as well as Portraits. After working again some with Pontormo, Bronzino received patronage from the Duke of Tuscany, Cosimo de’ Medici, after creating decorations for the Duke’s wedding to Eleonora di Toledo.
His portraits of Cosimo and Eleonora, among other figures of the Duke’s court, revealed a delicate coldness and almost aloof presence in his subjects. This defined Bronzino’s unemotional, yet stylish portrait technique. The works were well received and went on to influence a century of European court portraiture. The Duke also appointed Bronzino to paint Eleonora’s private chapel, which he began in 1545 and finished twenty years later.
As a Spanish noblewoman, Eleonora carried influence into Bronzino’s work of an eloquent, yet strict attention to ritual and ceremony. With this he contributed an enamel-like, or marble-like, tone, familiar to Florentine Mannerism. While sometimes referred to as almost Academic Art, it did not lack poetic creativity; as seen in his Portrait of a Genoese Admiral depicted as Neptune, God of the Sea.
Some of his influence was seen in helping to start the Accademia del Disegno - the Florence Academy of Fine Arts with his friend, Italian painter and architect, Giorgio Vasari. Much of Bronzino’s life is survived in the Vasari’s famous biographies, dedicated to Medici’s court in 1550, and considered the first encyclopedic history of Italian art.
. Additional to his Frescoes and Portraits, Bronzino created series of religious works. Including, The Israelites passing through the Red Sea, (1542), The Resurrection of the Virgin Mary (1552) and The Martyrdom of San Lorenzo (1569). He also created erotic nudes, while still capturing moral allegories in his famous piece Venus, Cupid, Folly and Time. This piece is still seen today throughout popular culture.
Bronzino’s last incomplete work was a large Fresco done in San Lorenzo, which he started in 1569, but died in 1572. A beloved student of his, Alessandro Allori, completed the work in his honor. Many of Bronzino’s most regarded works are still in Florence, but also appear in the National Gallery of London.
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