The Italian painter Bronzino (1503-1572) was one of the leaders of the second generation of Florentine mannerists. He is noted chiefly for his stylized portraits, cold in color but impeccable in realism of detail.
Born at Monticelli near Florence on Nov. 17, 1503, Angelo di Cosimo, called Bronzino was trained principally under Raffaellino del Garbo and Pontormo. According to Giorgio Vasari, Bronzino's portrait appears in Pontormo's Joseph in Egypt (ca. 1515). In his earliest works, often produced in collaboration with Pontormo, Bronzino's style reconciles influences from his two masters. Intellectual dependence on the late-15th-century style of Raffaellino prevented Bronzino from fully understanding the visionary imagination of Pontormo, and Bronzino's fresco St. Benedict (ca. 1526-1530) in the Badia, Florence, with its hard modeling, classicizing types, and objectivity of form and detail shows the beginnings of his lifelong academicism.
After the siege of Florence in 1530 Bronzino fled to Urbino, but he was soon recalled to collaborate again with Pontormo on the frescoes for several Medici villas. Bronzino's contributions to the ceremonial decorations for the triumphal entry of Eleanor of Toledo into Florence in 1539 resulted in his appointment that year as official court painter to the grand duchy of Tuscany. The autocratic, sophisticated atmosphere of Cosimo I's court, precisely reflected in Bronzino's formal and frigid portraits of the 1540s, was already hinted at in the detached impersonality of the still-Pontormesque Ugolino Martelli (ca. 1535-1538). In Eleanor of Toledo and Her Son (ca. 1545) the emotionless, carved faces are set off against a brittle, cold display of color and brilliantly observed realistic detail. Such portraits, and works like the Allegory with Venus, Cupid, Folly, and Time (ca. 1546), disturbing in its ice-cold, fragile sensuality, had a farflung impact in courtly circles throughout Europe.
Although his study of Michelangelo's Florentine works was evident in Bronzino's works of the 1530s when he was forming his court style, later on Bronzino developed comparatively little within the general tendencies of painting under the repressive conditions of the Counter Reformation, even remaining apparently unaffected by such revolutionary works as Michelangelo's Last Judgment. The academic, as opposed to imaginative, qualities of Bronzino's style, clearly dominant in the confused compositions and overdesigned figures of such late narrative works as the fresco Martyrdom of St. Lawrence (1565-1569) in S. Lorenzo, Florence, brought him into sympathetic contact with such Florentine academic mannerists as Vasari and Francesco Salviati, who were, like Bronzino, prominent members of the Florentine Academy. Bronzino died in Florence on Nov. 23, 1572.
Further Reading on Bronzino
The standard monograph on Bronzino is in Italian. In English see Arthur McComb, Agnolo Bronzino: His Life and Works (1928). Useful background material is in Giuliano Briganti, Italian Mannerism (trans. 1962).
Additional Biography Sources
McCorquodale, Charles, Bronzino, New York: Harper & Row, 1981.