Agnolo Bronzino Style and Technique
- 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
Art historians have often struggled to identify the work of 16th-century Italian Mannerist painter, Bronzino. This is because he is notorious for adopting the style of his teacher, Jacopo Pontormo, so perfectly that some paintings are still debated as to their creator.
Yet, where Pontormo excelled at religious paintings, Bronzino's talent shined in his portraiture work. He took the principles developed by Pontormo and ran with them. Bronzino's portraits are 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. He tended to exaggerate bright and bold colors in his portraits of the noble Medici family.
Bronzino is most known for his portraits of the Medici family that ruled Florence in the 16th century. He was court painter and official portraitist for the final 30 years of his life. The portraits he painted during his later years have become his legacy in the history of art.
In addition to being a painter, Bronzino was also a poet. It was his affinity to writing that inspired him to paint some of the leading Italian writers of his day. Some consider his portraits of literary figures to be his best, seeping with his subjective passion for the sitters.
Although Bronzino is not known primarily as a religious painter he did paint religious subjects. However, the common sentiment among art critics is that Bronzino lacked the passion to accomplish great religious works like his teacher. Although his technique was good, his religious paintings often appeared bland and lacking in emotion.
Bronzino also painted allegorical stories and these are some of his most peculiar yet fantastic works. His much acclaimed Allegory with Venus and Cupid is an example of this genre. These paintings tend to inject moral messages into the themes.
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 the faces and bodies of his subjects 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 often used bold and exaggerated colors which became a hallmark of the Mannerist style of portraiture. He painstakingly concentrated on the details and realism of his portraits, which in many cases made the portraits appear as though they had been lacquered. His portraiture style was so popular at the time 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. He often included nude or nearly nude figures in his religious paintings. The same cold calculation that served to set Bronzino's portraits apart hindered his religious works, meaning they often seemed emotionally empty, even though the craftsmanship with superb.
Bronzino also tended to make use of a harsh contrast between light and dark, 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. Many of them were also laced with moral implications.
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. He took special care when painting the elaborate garments worn by the Medici family in his portraits and often, the grand clothing and patterns would appear as characters unto themselves, dominating the portrait. Bronzino's attention to detail was of the highest standard.