An Allegory with Venus and Cupid

Agnolo Bronzino

Portrait of Agnolo Bronzino

A butcher's son swept off his feet by a renaissance master.

Agnolo di Cosimo Bronzino was born to a poor family in Monticello, outside of Florence. Agnolo was introduced to painting at age 11, by the Florentine painter Raffaellino del Garbo, and at age 12 became the pupil of Pontormo. Agnolo and Pontormo were inseparable, living and working together for the next decade, their styles almost indistigushable. By about 1530 Bronzino had moved away from Pontormo's nervous sensibility and developed an art and career independent of his master. His new style was first evident in his portraits. For Bronzino, a portrait was a mask. Rather than revealing the sitter's character, the Florentine aimed to convey his subject's social standing, elegance, and restraint. Bronzino expressed the material world in his portraits; the enameled colors and attention to depicting details like his sitters' lace collars, hair, and jewelry, and even the veins in their hands gave his portraits a remote decorativeness.

As court painter to Cosimo I de' Medici, first Grand Duke of Tuscany, Bronzino also painted religious works, which he approached with the same cool detachment as his portraits. Between 1546 and 1548, Bronzino lived in Rome. His allegorical paintings influenced younger Mannerist painters with their distorted poses, exaggerated expressions, and emphasis on movement. In his later work, Bronzino discarded his frozen passion, conceiving his public paintings as cumulative displays of his encyclopedic knowledge of art history and his talent for assimilating it into his own works.

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