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The couple was part of the high society of Florence thanks to their well acclaimed artistic and literary endeavors. They were childless, but not for lack of trying. Battiferri sometimes referred to herself as a "barren tree. " Her poetry spread through the literary communities of Italy and made it as far as the Spanish court where her work was translated into Spanish. Writers of the time flocked to her for her smart company.
This portrait is considered by some to be the most fascinating female portrait of this time period. Battiferri's slender fingers mark a page in an open book of Petrarch's sonnets to Laura, with whom the sitter identifies. According to Petrarch, Laura is an "unapproachable, unattainable beauty... as chaste as the adored mistress of a troubadour, as modest and devout as a 'Stilnovismo Beatrice'". "Laura's personality is even more elusive than her external appearance. She remains the incarnation of chaste and noble beauty."
Battiferri is shown from the side, offering a clear look at her profile and long, almost hooked nose. Bronzino unnaturally draws out her forehead slightly to call attention to the size and shape of her nose. Women, or men for that matter, were rarely, if ever, painted from the side during this time. Her head also appears slightly smaller than normal proportion would allow and her neck has been elongated, which is a trademark of the Mannerist style. Battiferri's head and position is also reminiscent of a coin profile.
Bronzino does, like in most of his portraits, take great care to mold Battiferri's face in three-dimensional-appearing contours. This was his trademark: ultra realistic style. Laura has a very focused look on her face and her blank expression is also exemplary of many of Bronzino's portraits.
Laura Battiferri, a supporter of the Jesuitical Counter-Reformation, was reputed to have been a devout Catholic. Her great popularity at the Spanish court confirms this. The demure severity of her pose and dress may reflect the increased rigidity of Catholic ethical norms since the Council of Trent (1545-1563).
Bronzino uses mundane colors, primarily white, gray, black and beige. In many of Bronzino's other portraits, he uses more dramatic tones like reds and blues.
Cosimo I de' Medici in Armour
Bronzino's painting technique is extremely controlled and meticulous. His brushstrokes appear non-existent, which gives his work the extremely realistic, almost life-like appearance, especially in his portraits. Bronzino's attention to detail was of the highest standard.
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, including Alessandro Allori, Michael Dahl and Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres.
Mannerism combines various styles and is heavily influenced by the restrained naturalism related to painters such Raphael, Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci.
The mannerist portrait of Angelo Bronzino was born in Florence - a city believed by many Florentine exiles to be built on corruption after the fall of the last republic in 1530 and the development of dynastic rule by the Medici. Yet, this did not stop the young Bronzino and his works soon caught the eye of the ruling class and in his later career, Bronzino even became court painter to the Medici family.
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.
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
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