Agnolo di Cosimo (November 17, 1503 – November 23, 1572), usually known as Il Bronzino, or Agnolo Bronzino (mistaken attempts also have been made in the past to assert his name was Agnolo Tori and even Angelo (Agnolo) Allori), was an Italian Mannerist painter from Florence. His sobriquet, Bronzino, in all probability refers to his relatively dark skin.
Movements: Renaissance, Mannerism
[Please note that Bronzino's paintings contain nudity, if that offends you don't read the article.]
Bronzino was born in Florence, the son of a butcher. According to his contemporary Vasari, Bronzino was a pupil first of Raffaellino del Garbo, and then of Pontormo, to whom he was apprenticed at 14. Pontormo is thought to have introduced a portrait of Bronzino as a child (seated on a step) into one of his series on Joseph in Egypt now in the National Gallery, London.
Pontormo exercised a dominant influence on Bronzino’s developing style, and the two were to remain collaborators for most of the former’s life. An early example of Bronzino’s hand has often been detected in the Capponi Chapel in the church of Santa Felicita by the Ponte Vecchio in Florence. Pontormo designed the interior and executed the altarpiece, the masterly Deposition from the Cross and the sidewall fresco Annunciation. Bronzino apparently was assigned the frescoes on the dome, which however have not survived. Of the four empanelled tondi or roundels depicting each of the evangelists, two were said by Vasari to have been painted by Bronzino. His style however is so similar to his master’s that scholars still debate the specific attributions.
Towards the end of his life, Bronzino took a prominent part in the activities of the Florentine Accademia delle Arti del Disegno, of which he was a founding member in 1563.The painter Alessandro Allori was his favourite pupil, and Bronzino was living in the Allori family house at the time of his death in Florence in 1572 (Alessandro was also the father of Cristofano Allori). Bronzino spent the majority of his career in Florence.
Bronzino’s work tends to include sophisticated references to earlier painters, as in one of his last grand frescoes called The Martyrdom of St. Lawrence (San Lorenzo, 1569), in which almost every one of the extraordinarily contorted poses can be traced back to Raphael or to Michelangelo, who Bronzino idolized (cf. Brock).
Bronzino’s skill with the nude was even more enigmatically deployed in the celebrated Venus, Cupid, Folly and Time, which conveys strong feelings of eroticism under the pretext of a moralizing allegory. His other major works include the design of a series of tapestries on The Story of Joseph, for the Palazzo Vecchio.
Let’s enjoy his most celebrated paintings:
Use in popular culture
Terry Gilliam from British comedy group Monty Python famously used Cupid’s right foot from Venus, Cupid, Folly and Time for crushing down the titles on Monty Python’s Flying Circus.
American photographer David LaChapelle created his own version of the painting Venus, Cupid, Folly and Time.
Francis Cornish, the protagonist of Robertson Davies’ novel What’s Bred in the Bone, was obsessed with the meaning of Venus, Cupid, Folly and Time.
Many of Bronzino’s works are still in Florence but other examples can be found in the National Gallery, London, and elsewhere.