Itinerary: Visiting Florence with Bronzino

Agnolo di Cosimo (1503-1572), known as Bronzino, was born and died in Florence, and indeed rarely left the city which today houses some of his greatest masterpieces. Visitors to the exhibit "Bronzino: Artist and Poet" at Palazzo Strozzi (24 September 2010 to 23 January 2011) can use the free Bronzino pass (it gives you discounts) along with this map and guide to see Bronzino’s Florence, for a number of frescoes and other works can still be seen in the places for which they were originally created. View Bronzino in Florence Itinerary in a larger map

Bronzino in Florence's Museums

The chapel of Eleanora di Toledo at Palazzo Vecchio
The chapel of Eleanora di Toledo at Palazzo Vecchio
Undoubtedly, the first place to visit is the Cappella di Eleonora at the Palazzo Vecchio. Eleonora di Toledo was Cosimo I de’ Medici’s wife and the chapel, entirely decorated by Bronzino for Cosimo in 1540-45, is one of his most important and original works. On the vault, divided by festoons, are St. Francis receiving the Stigmata, St Jerome, St John the Evangelist at Patmos, and St Michael the Archangel. On the walls are episodes from the Life of Moses (perhaps a symbolic reference to Cosimo I): the Crossing of the Red Sea, the Brazen Snake, the Gathering of Manna and Moses Drawing Water from the Rock. Here you can also visit the Studiolo di Francesco I, a tiny study created by Giorgio Vasari in 1570-75, a masterpiece of Florentine Mannerist decoration. The Studiolo is entirely decorated with paintings and bronze statuettes celebrating Francesco’s interests in the natural sciences and alchemy; on the barrel vault are portraits by Bronzino of Francesco’s parents, Cosimo I and Eleonora di Toledo. The Galleria dell'Accademia houses Bronzino's Lamentation over the Dead Christ (circa 1565) after a commission by Cosimo I for the church of the Observant Franciscans at the Island of Elba.

Bronzino in Florence's churches

Bronzino at Santa Croce
Bronzino at Santa Croce
Many of Bronzino’s works can still be seen in the most important churches of Florence. Starting at the church of Santa Maria Novella, in the Cappella Gaddi, is a painting of Christ Raising the Daughter of Jairus, probably painted by Bronzino in collaboration with his pupil Alessandro Allori. At San Lorenzo one of the few spots of colour in the nave is a large fresco by Bronzino of the Martyrdom of St Lawrence. (While you're there don't miss the late Donatello pulpits, you'll be right next to them.) Then head over to the Basilica di Ss.ma. Annunziata, where in the Cappella di San Girolamo you can see a portrait of Bronzino and his master Pontormo frescoed by Alessandro Allori: they're hidden in a Disputation of Christ with the Doctors. In the Cappella della Compagnia di San Luca (looking on the Chiostro dei morti, or cloister of the Dead) is a Trinity by Alessandro Allori, again with his portraits of Bronzino (on the right) and Pontormo (on the left). The two artists were buried in this chapel in 1572, and it was probably then that Allori painted their portraits. The chapel is normally closed, ask at the church about a special visit.
The Capponi Chapel at Santa Felicita
The Capponi Chapel at Santa Felicita
At the Church of Santa Croce (in the museum part) do not miss the splendid Descent of Christ to Limbo, signed and dated 1552, which is one of the most important religious works by the artist. And just over the Ponte Vecchio there's a church on a little piazza; that's Santa Felicita, where the young Bronzino assisted his master Pontormo in the 1520s decoration of the Capponi chapel; see the masterly Annunciation and The Deposition from the Cross frescoes by Pontormo that adorn the main walls; the roundels painted in part by Bronzino are in the show at Palazzo Strozzi.

Bronzino slightly beyond the city walls

If you're interested in venturing a little beyond the city walls, head out to the Refectory at San Salvi; the Last Supper is painted by fellow Mannerist Andrea del Sarto while there is, in the museum, an early lunette frescoed by Bronzino. To the northwest of the city centre is the Museo Stibbert, created by the eccentric Anglo-Italian collector Frederick Stibbert (1838-1906), and here in the Sala delle bandiere (named after the Sienese flags used at the Palio which decorate the ceiling) is a portrait of Francesco de’ Medici that is attributed to Bronzino. (While you're at it, take in the strange collection of arms and armour, and then stop for a picnic in the annexed public park.) Just south of Florence, on the road to Siena, is the Certosa di Galluzzo, formerly a Carthusian and now a Cistercian monastery. In the Chiostrino dei Monaci are two lunettes on the door which leads to the Charterhouse: a Pietà with two angels (facing the cloister) and St. Lawrence (facing inside), both by Bronzino. Other treasures at this important monastery include beautiful frescoes by Pontormo, Bronzino’s master. [Text adapted from material provided by Palazzo Strozzi press office. A paper map of this itinerary is available at APT Firenze and Palazzo Strozzi or can be downloaded from the Palazzo Strozzi website.]