Bronzino curator interview (5 reasons to go see it now)

Bronzino, Holy family with st. John (Panciatichi Madonna), Uffizi
Bronzino, Holy family with st. John (Panciatichi Madonna), Uffizi

If you haven't yet seen the exhibit "Bronzino Artist and Poet at the Court of the Medici" in Florence, you have exactly one month left to do so before it closes on January 23 2011. Even if you cannot make it to Florence to see the show, you might enjoy this interview with exhibition curators Carlo Falciani and Antonio Natali who explain to us why the exhibit - and Bronzino - are so important.

1) Why is this exhibition on Bronzino a once-in-a-lifetime event? It is a once-in-a-lifetime event because even though he is one of the greatest artists of the Cinquecento, a monographic exhibition comprising the majority of his paintings – most of them panel paintings, with loans from the leading museums in Italy and the rest of the world – has never yet been organised, and that’s since the date of his death in 1572! 2) How important an artist was Bronzino in his own time? Along with Michelangelo, Andrea del Sarto, Pontormo and Rosso Fiorentino, Bronzino was a leading light of the Florentine and Italian Cinquecento. He is the perfect example of a court artist of the nature Mannerist era. He was one of the favourites of Cosimo I de’ Medici, of Eleonora of Toledo and of several leading Florentine families associated with the spread of the Protestant reform in Italy. He was also a poet capable of adopting different expressive registers, ranging from the style of Petrarch to the out-and-out burlesque. Some of the greatest Florentine painters of the second half of the 16th century called him “master”. 3) What innovations did he bring to art with his painting?
Bronzino, Portrait of Cosimo de'Medici, Sydney AGSW
Bronzino, Portrait of Cosimo de'Medici, Sydney AGSW

The innovations, which even contemporary critics recognized – Giorgio Vasari first and foremost – and which can clearly be detected in his work, are an extraordinary grasp of naturalism combined with an icy accuracy of execution that make his works at once both mysterious and magnificent. His other major innovation over the painting that went before was his new approach to portraiture. His sitters are almost tangible, yet at the same time they are given a rather abstract air by the extraordinary purity of his use of colour. Thus with their boundless beauty and magnificence, his paintings both portray and epitomise the Medici court.

4) What are the main themes on which he based his work? Bronzino was the greatest portrait painter of the 16th century in Florence, and possibly in Italy alongside Titian. He also painted religious works which express the religious fervour of the era. In the 1540s he embraced the reformed (or heretical) ideas that were in circulation at the Medici court at the time, but later, in the 1560s, he subscribed to the Counter-Reformation. Moreover, paralleling the dual expressive register of his poetry, he painted secular allegories depicting variations on the theme of the carnal love of Venus and Cupid. Lastly, he produced cartoons for the tapestries that Cosimo had ordered to decorate the Salone dei Duecento in Palazzo Vecchio, the most extraordinary series of wall hangings woven in 16th century Italy next to those that Raphael designed for the Sistine Chapel. 5) What does this exhibition bring to scholarship that is new? The exhibition offers an almost complete overview of Bronzino’s work in relation both to Pontormo, who was his master, and to Alessandro Allori, who was his pupil. Most of the works of art on display have been specially restored for the event and have never been seen before in the original splendour of their colouring or execution. Three hitherto unknown works by Bronzino, discovered in public and private collections, are also on display. Two of the paintings are known from contemporary sources: the Crucified Christ painted for Bartolomeo Panciatichi, and the St Cosmas painted for the chapel of Eleonora of Toledo in Palazzo Vecchio. The third previously unknown work is a painting of Christ Carrying the Cross, which has been attributed to Bronzino on the strength of the quality of the painting and of stylistic similarity with his other works. In view of the artist’s importance and of the rarity of his work, presenting three previously unknown paintings offers us a unique opportunity to rekindle dialogue with one of the most important painters of the Cinquecento. Source: press office