- Full Name:
- Agnolo di Cosimo
- Short Name:
- Alternative Names:
- Il Bronzino, Agnolo Bronzino
- Date of Birth:
- 17 Nov 1503
- Date of Death:
- 23 Nov 1572
- Oil, Tempera, Metal, Wood, Other
- Art Movement:
- Florence, Italy
Agnolo Bronzino, whose real name was Agnolo di Cosimo and is most commonly referred to as Il Bronzino or simply Bronzino, was a stand-out artist of the second-wave of Italian Mannerism in the middle of the 16th century. He lived his entire life in Florence and modeled his painting style so closely to that of his mentor, Jacopo Pontormo, that art historians today still debate the credit of several paintings.
Succeeding where Pontormo had not, Bronzino eventually became court painter to the powerful Medici family of Florence and gained notoriety for his portraiture style that meshed a detached realism depicting cold and often arrogant expressions of his noblemen sitters with bold colors such as ice blue and raspberry red. His portraits have proven to be his primary legacy and influenced portraiture painting for a century following his death in 1572.
Bronzino took the principles developed by Pontormo and ran with them. The result was portraits that were immaculately realistic in detail, with his subjects exuding blank, stoic expressions, yet with a sense of nobility and haughtiness. His use of color is primarily what sets Bronzino's style apart from Pontormo's and earned him a permanent place among the great Italian Mannerists.
Andrea del Sarto
The Mannerist movement developed around 1520 in either Florence or Rome and replaced the High Renaissance era. It lasted until around 1580 with the emergence of the Baroque style. Early Mannerist painters include Andea del Sarto, Jacopo Pontormo and Rosso Fiorento and such artists are known for their elongated forms and theatrical lighting.
Mannerism combines various styles and is heavily influenced by the restrained naturalism related to painters such Raphael, Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci. This, Mannerism is known for its artificial rather than naturalistic qualities.
Mannerist portraits by Agnolo Bronzino are distinguished by a still sophistication and superb attention to detail. Bronzino focused heavily on the clothing and materials featured in his works and this was often said to create a gulf between the subject and viewer.
Raffaellino del Garbo
Deposition from the Cross, Jacopo Pontormo
Bronzino was born November 17, 1503, in the town of Monticello outside Florence to a poor family. He started his art education at the age of 11 as a pupil of Raffaellino del Garbo, a Florentine Renaissance painter. In 1515 Bronzino undertook an apprenticeship in Florence with the man who would become his biggest artistic influence and, some say, adopted father: Jacopo Carucci, better known as Pontormo.
In 1522 when Bronzino was 19 years old, the plague broke out in Florence so he and Pontormo left the heart of the city to avoid the Black Death and stayed three miles away at Certosa di Galuzzo, a cloistered Carthusian monastery.
In 1925, Pontormo called upon his pupil to help with what would be his masterpiece: Deposition from the Cross. This altarpiece was painted in the Florentine church of Santa Felicità. Pontormo was commissioned to decorate the entire church with frescoes and in a testament to Pontormo's trust in and affection for Bronzino he allowed him to help him once again.
Bronzino fled to Urbino after the Siege of Florence in 1530 after being invited there by the Duke of Urbino to paint a nude Cupid on a spandrel of a vault of the Imperiale. Soon after he arrived, Pontormo wrote letter after letter asking Bronzino to come back. Yet, a prince at Urbino was so impressed with Bronzino's painting that he commissioned him to paint his portrait. Once it was finished, Bronzino rejoined his teacher in Florence.
As Bronzino began to be known for his portraits, the nobility in Florence took note. He became the official portraitist for the Medici and soon went to work painting the portraits of the ruling family members, which he is now largely known for, and which is Bronzino's greatest contribution to Mannerism.
Bronzino had many students as he worked as court painter, a role he fulfilled until his death, but none as favored as Alessandro Allori. In a move that mirrored his relationship with Pontormo, Bronzino adopted Allori as his son. Bronzino moved into the Allori family house and died there on November 23, 1572, at the age of 69.
Art historians have often struggled to identify the work of 16th-century Italian Mannerist Bronzino due to the fact that he is notorious for adopting Pontormo's style so well that the creator of some paintings is still debated.
Common words used to describe Bronzino's portraiture style are cold, calculated, unemotional, detached, superbly realistic and with immaculate attention to detail, especially when painting elaborate clothing patterns and fabrics. He molded his faces and bodies into an almost three-dimensional effect as opposed to appearing flat on the canvas. His portraits capture the arrogance of high society that became en vogue during the 16th century.
Bronzino's portraiture style was so popular that it influenced court portraiture throughout Europe and for centuries to come.
Religious and Allegorical Style:
Bronzino's religious works are generally marked by complex compositions and contorted body positions, an influence of both Pontormo and Michelangelo. Yet, Bronzino lacked the passion that Pontormo oozed in his religious paintings meaning they often seemed emotionally empty even though the craftsmanship was evident.
Bronzino used this technique to bring attention to the light-colored figures in the painting so they stood out from the dark background.
Bronzino's allegory paintings heavily used symbolism and, like many of his religious works, made use of the naked human form.
Bronzino's painting technique is extremely controlled and meticulous. His brushstrokes appear non-existent, which gives his works, especially his portraits, an extremely realistic, almost life-like appearance.
Joseph in Egypt, Jacopo Pontormo
Pontormo had, by far, the biggest influence on Bronzino's career. Bronzino became Pontormo's student in Florence in 1515, at the age of 12, and remained his close assistant and friend until Pontormo's death in 1557.
Pontormo was primarily considered a religious painter throughout his long career in Florence. Although Bronzino also painted religious subjects he was not considered as skilled in such works as his mentor.
Andrea del Sarto:
Some historical accounts say that Bronzino briefly studied under Andrea del Sarto in Florence, which is perhaps where he picked up some of his painting style. What is not disputed is that Pontormo was one of Sarto's students and was heavily influenced by the artist who bridged the gap between the Italian High Renaissance and Italian Mannerism.
Bronzino either acquired Sarto's style of bold colors and slightly elongated forms from the artist himself or from his close work with Pontormo. Sarto also appears to have influenced Pontormo's attention to detail and realism in his portraits.
Although Pontormo was Bronzino's biggest influence and most inspirational teacher, Bronzino idolized Michelangelo, like so many other Italian artists. Michelangelo's influence is most apparent in Bronzino's work in his mid-to-late career, from about 1530 to 1560. Like Michelangelo, Bronzino studied the human form in great detail and included several nudes in his paintings.
Michelangelo's influence can also be noted in Bronzino's religious pieces where his characters' poses can be traced back to Michelangelo. But perhaps a more interesting link is the way the two artists sometimes included goulish subjects in their work.
Leonardo da Vinci:
Bronzino had a much closer connection to da Vinci and his work than many other artists of his generation. Bronzino's mentor, Pontormo, studied under da Vinci as a young painter in Florence in the early 16th century and therefore garnered some of his early style from da Vinci and passed it onto Bronzino.
Bronzino's portraits that depict extreme realism and attention to detail can be likened to da Vinci's mastery of this skill. However, Bronzino took his ability to replicate the realistic features of his sitters in a different direction, giving an icy, detached feeling, as opposed to da Vinci who painted his sitters not only realistically but also in an inviting manner.
Portrait of Grand Duchess Bianca Capello de Medici with Her Son, Alessandro Allori
Bronzino had broad influence over court portraiture for an entire century following his death in 1572. The aloof, detached style he used to capture the noble class of Florence, in its decadent and arrogant pride spread throughout Europe reaching courts as far as Elizabethan England. Bronzino's portraits are his primary genius and legacy to the art world and several artists were particularly inspired by his unique style.
Allori became Bronzino's student when he was five years old and was later adopted by the artist. Their relationship and the strong influence Bronzino had on Allori's art mirrors that of Bronzino's relationship with his mentor, Pontormo, who some historians say actually adopted Bronzino as his son.
Allori, like Bronzino before him, was a court painter for the ruling Medici family of Florence. Allori's court portraiture is extremely similar to Bronzino's style: the meticulous attention to detail and realistic presentation, blank facial expressions that give a detached arrogance, and extremely elaborate costumes that almost overwhelm the presence of the sitter.
The two artists' portraiture style is so similar that some portraits that had once been attributed to Bronzino were later correctly accredited to Allori, who is considered one of the last Mannerist artists before the Baroque era took hold.
Dahl was a Swedish painter working in England during the second half of the 17th century and early part of the 18th century. He was considered by many to be the only serious rival to the most important English painter of the period, Sir Godfrey Kneller. Dahl's portraits of English nobility matched many of the stylistic fingerprints of Bronzino: the arrogant facial expression, the extravagant and detailed clothing, and bold colors.
Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres:
Ingres was a French Neoclassical painter who, like Bronzino, was best known for his court portraits. Ingres was not interested in being an innovator but rather a conservator of an older style of painting. Almost 300 years after Bronzino died, Ingres was carrying on his portraiture tradition of immaculate realism, decadent and detailed costumes and facial expressions that reflect the high-class arrogance of the majority of his sitters.
To read more about Bronzino and his artworks please refer to the recommended reading list below.
• Brock, Maurice. Bronzino. Flammarion, 2002
• Cecchi, Alessandro. Bronzino (The library of great masters). Constable, 1997
• Cox-Rearick, Janet. Bronzino's Chapel of Eleonora in the Palazzo Vecchio. University of California Press, 1993
• Falciani, Carlo & Natali, Antonio. Bronzino: Painter and Poet at the Court of the Medici. Mandragora, 2010
• Levey, Michael. Bronzino. Purnell, 1967
• McComb, Arthur Kilgore. Agnolo Bronzino: His Life and Works. Harvard University Press, 1928
• Pilliod, Elizabeth. Pontormo, Bronzino, Allori: A Genealogy of Florentine Art. Yale University Press, 2001
• Strehlke, Carl Brandon. Pontormo, Bronzino, and the Medici: The Transformation of the Renaissance Portrait in Florence. Pennsylvania State University Press, 2004