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Agnolo Bronzino Biography & Paintings | Who was Agnolo di Cosimo?

Instructor: Sophea Ek

Sophea’s educational background is primarily in Social Studies, as a former Social Studies M.Ed candidate.

Learn about Agnolo di Cosimo. Identify who artist Agnolo Bronzino was, and why he and his paintings have importance. Updated: 11/03/2022

Who Was Agnolo di Cosimo?

Agnolo di Cosimo, also known as Agnolo Bronzino or simply Bronzino, was among the most famous artists of 16th-century Florence, Italy. At that time, Florence was a hub of the Renaissance art movement. The Renaissance was an artistic period in the global west during which the arts experienced a dramatic revitalization characterized by multifaceted and sometimes contradicting trends, such as greater attunement to natural elements, a renewed interest in classic (Greek/Roman) arts, and the glorification of individual over society.

Bronzino's work simultaneously honored artists of the past while also distinguishing him stylistically. He was greatly influenced by Michelangelo, as were many artists of his time, although Bronzino's work is considered Mannerist. His nickname, Bronzino, is likely in reference to his bronzed skin or reddish hair. The name is a sobriquet, or a nickname, that is given by someone else and based on a person's salient attributes. It often replaces the person's actual name.

Biography of Bronzino

Bronzino, the son of a butcher, was born in 1503 and raised in Florence, Italy. He studied under well-known painter Raffaellino del Garbo, and was apprenticed to Pontormo when he was fourteen. Pontormo was a prolific painter who was well connected to the Florentine art scene. He was thought to have painted Bronzino as a boy in his Joseph of Egypt series. The talent of Bronzino's hand is also thought to be in Pontormo's Capponi Chapel painting in the church of Santa Felicita in Florence.

Bronzino set off on his own in 1530 and attempted to move away from his teacher's style. One of these departures was to paint a portrait as a mask, rather than as who a person actually was. To do this, Bronzino emphasized things like colors, the lace on the trim of their costume, the detail of a collar, the hair style, jewelry, and even the veins in their hands to reveal his subjects' prestige, wealth, and standing in society.

Shortly after his departure from Pontormo's studio, he became the court painter for Cosimo I de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany. Like many painters in his day, Bronzino's works were commissioned by nobles who were often also the subjects of the paintings. As a result, he is particularly known for his paintings of the Medici family. Bronzino also briefly lived in Rome, in the 1540s, where he began painting allegorical paintings, featuring subjects in distorted poses and exaggerated expressions. His allegorical paintings also emphasized movement. His Mannerist style is what influenced future painters. He died in 1572.

Bronzino's Paintings

Bronzino's paintings typify the artistic style of Mannerism. Mannerism was a departure from the style of painting that typified the previous era which sought to capture with religious accuracy the features and forms of the natural world. Mannerism sought to dramatize and exaggerate the natural world, particularly in emphasizing wealth, power, and elegance: a style that was very amenable to the subjects of Bronzino's paintings, which were almost exclusively Italian nobles. This was a style that dominated among his contemporaries from the 1520s, during the High Renaissance, until the Baroque era. He was also responsible for the trend of sending the duplicates of paintings as a token of diplomacy.

He also painted allegorical paintings, or paintings which embodied emotions, as abstractions through figures of two or more. Allegorical paintings could convey things like envy, love, anger, nobility, kingdoms, or countries. It is essentially a painting with a hidden meaning and not simply what it appears. His paintings on occasion took on a religious subject; the most notable of these was The Madonna and Child with Saints. However, paintings of religious content generally were not common with Bronzino.

Bronzino's Portraits

Bronzino's most well-known portraits are that of the Medici family, with whom he had spent much of his career as a court painter. His subjects included the Duke Cosimo, the duchess Eleanora, and their children. Painted primarily in the Mannerist style, Bronzino's intention was to challenge the norms of natural forms, as well as archetypes of beauty. The poses and objects in the paintings were artificial, the antithesis to natural forms, which also presented the artist with a different type of challenge. In his portraits of the Medici family, he was known to capture an exaggerated likeness through which the Medici's nobility was emphasized by the details in the finery of their costume and jewelry.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Who influenced Bronzino?

Bronzino was apprenticed to artist Pontormo, but in an effort to distinguish himself from his teacher, he developed a slightly different style called Mannerism. His paintings are mostly inspired by a desire for his subjects to standout, rather than to be a natural depiction of them.

What was Bronzino famous for?

Bronzino was famous for his Mannerist style of paintings, which were a departure from the Naturalist style. Bronzino was active during the Renaissance era, and was one of the signature artists of Mannerism.

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