Bronzino Agnolo

Italian Mannerist painter Agnolo di Cosimo often remembered as Bronzino (Italian: El Bronzino [il brondzino]) or Agnolo Bronzino, was born in Florence and resided from 17 November 1503 to 23 November 1572. Bronzino's nickname may be a reference to either his blond hair or dark skin tone. 

He spent his whole life in Florence and was kept busy as the court painter of Cosimo I de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, starting in his late 30s. While he concentrated on portraiture, he also created a variety of religious and symbolic topics, including Venus, Cupid, Folly, and Time, which is presently housed in London and is arguably his most well-known painting. As Cosimo was a pioneer of the reproduced portrait delivered as a formal gift, several portraits of the Medicis exist in various variants with differing degrees of collaboration by Bronzino himself.

Although he studied under Pontormo, the most renowned Florentine painter of the first age of Mannerism, and was significantly affected by him, his beautiful and somewhat elongated figures never appear frantic or filled with emotion like those of his master. As a result of the widespread criticism of Mannerism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, they have sometimes been criticized as being cold and mechanical, and their popularity suffered. His artwork has received more attention in recent decades.


The Son of a butcher, Bronzino, was born in Florence. Vasari, a contemporary of Bronzino, claimed that the artist originally studied under Pontormo, to whom he was apprenticed at 14, before studying under Raffaellino del Garbo. One of Pontormo's series on Joseph in Egypt, currently on display at the National Gallery in London, is thought to have contained a portrait of Bronzino as a youngster (sitting on a step). Pontormo greatly impacted Bronzino's style development, and the two remained partners for most of the protagonist's life. The Capponi Chapel at Florence's Santa Felicita church by the Ponte Vecchio has repeatedly revealed an early example of Bronzino's craftsmanship. Pontormo created the interior and painted the altarpiece, the skillfully done Deposition from the Cross, and the Advent sidewall fresco. It appears that Bronzino was responsible for the dome's missing frescoes. Vasari believed that two of the four impaneled tondi or roundels, one for each of the apostles, were painted by Bronzino. Scholars continue to argue the exact attributions because of how similar his style is to that of his master. 

Bronzino, a charter member of the Florentine Accademia delle Arti del Disegno in 1563, participated significantly in its activities at the end of his life.

His favorite student was the artist Alessandro Allori. At the time of his passing in Florence in 1572, Contact was residing in the Allori family home (Alessandro was also the father of Cristofano Allori). The entirety of Bronzino's career was spent in Florence.


In 1539, Cosimo I de Medici married Eleonora di Toledo, the daughter of the Viceroy of Naples. Bronzino was one of the numerous artisans chosen to create the lavish decorations for the wedding. He rose rapidly to the role of official court artist for the Duke and his court, a role he held for the duration of his career. His portrait figures, which are usually seen as immobile, elegant, and trendy illustrations of impassive haughtiness and assurance, influenced the growth of European court portraits for a century. There are various workshop variations and copies of these well-known paintings. Bronzino painted idealized portraits of the poets Dante (ca. 1530; currently in Washington, DC) and Petrarch, in addition to representations of the Florence elite.

The aforementioned sequence of Cosimo and Eleonora, as well as other members of their court, like Bartolomeo Panciatichi and his wife Lucrezia, are among Bronzino's greatest works. These paintings, notably those of the duchess, are famed for their exquisite attention to the specifics of her attire, which in the picture on the right practically has a personality of its own. The Duchess is depicted here with her mother and second son Giovanni, who passed away from malaria in 1562; nevertheless, the lavish fabric of the robe takes more room on the canvas than either of the sitters. There has been some intellectual discussion about the clothing itself. When this urban legend was dispelled, others speculated that possibly the magnificent gown never existed, and Bronzino fabricated the entire thing, perhaps working only on a fabric sample. The duchess was said to have liked the extravagant gown so much that she was reportedly buried in it. This portrait of the duchess emerged as one of the most famous after Bronzino and his business repeatedly recreated it. One of the best surviving versions is shown below, which is at the Uffizi Gallery.

Less common but perhaps even more intriguing are Bronzino's so-called "allegorical portraits," like the one of a German admiral named Portrait of Andrea Doria as Neptune, which has the oddity of portraying a very well individual in the flesh as a legendary creature. In addition to being a painter, Bronzino was also a poet. His portraiture of other literary luminaries, such as his friend, the poet Laura Battiferri, maybe his most intimate works. Scholars have concluded that Bronzino was homosexual due to the eroticized nature of these virulent naked male portraits and the homoerotic undertones in his poetry.


Bronzino started work on the Passion of Christ altarpiece and the fresco ornamentation of the Chapel of Eleanora di Toledo at the Palazzo Vecchio in 1540/41. Before receiving this assignment, his style in the religious genre was less Mannerist and was founded on High Revival balanced designs. In this fresco cycle, he developed a classicizing and beautiful style (cf. Smyth), and his religious paintings are representations of the Florentine court's mid-16th-century aesthetics, typically seen as highly stylized and impersonal or passionate. Bronzino's strategy at the time was identical to that of Moses crossing the Red Sea, but it should not be argued that Bronzino or the court lacked religious fervor just because of the favored court attire. Duchess Eleanora generously supported the newly formed Jesuit order.

Almost all of the astonishingly contorted poses in one of Bronzino's final large-scale frescoes, The Martyrdom of St. Lawrence (San Lorenzo, 1569), can be thought to be due to Raphael or Michelangelo,

who Bronzino admired. This is typical of the intricate allusions to earlier painters found in Bronzino's work (cf. Brock). In his well-known novel Venus, Cupid, Folly, and Time, which expresses powerful emotions of sexuality under the guise of a virtue-signaling allegory, Bronzino's expertise with the nude was even more uncannily used. One of his other notable masterpieces was a set of tapestries depicting The Story of Joseph for the Palazzo Vecchio.

There are still several of Bronzino's works in Florence, but there are also some in London, the National Gallery, and other places.

Artworks by Bronzino Agnolo

Head of a Man

Venus, Cupid, and the Time

St. John the Baptist

Allegorical Portrait of Dante

Portrait of a Lady with a Puppy

Venus, Cupid, and the Time

Deposition of Christ

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