The Early Modern World, C. 1300–1600

Sixteenth-Century European Art and Architecture

Who was Bronzino?

“Bronzino” was the nickname of Florentine artist Agnolo di Cosimo (1503–1572), who studied under Pontormo, a fellow Mannerist painter. Bronzino’s most significant patron was the Medici family, for whom he completed many projects, including altarpieces and frescoes. Today, his portraits are among his most well-known paintings, particularly his Portrait of a Young Man, painted in the 1530s, and now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The identity of the young portrait sitter is unknown, but he is likely a friend of Bronzino’s who ran in the same literary circles (Bronzino also wrote poetry). The sitter holds his finger gingerly between the pages of a book, eliciting curiosity about its contents. The well-dressed young man is poised, with good posture and an air of confidence that is only belied by his slightly crossed eyes. He seems to be fully aware of his own superficial airs; he is as much of a mask as the faces carved into the side of the ornate table. This is Bronzino’s skill—the artist has an ability to purposefully pose his sitter for the viewer, to make us aware that we can only see the cover, and not the contents of the book.


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