I normally only write about people and events based in London or Paris but this exhibition from a recent visit to Florence is simply too wonderful to leave out.
Bronzino lived in the 16th century and worked for the Medicis, principally Cosimo I, amongst others. His skill for versimilitude was one of the characteristics of his work, something quite new at that time. This exhibition at the Palazzo Strozzi in Florence is the first time so many of his paintings have been seen together, about 70 in all and it is staggering to see the skill and subtlety of the work.
The portait above of Eleonor of Toledo, wife of Cosimo, and her son Giovanni is the poster image everywhere for the show. It is 3/4 length and quite large, over 1 metre high. Eleonor looks melancholy, encased in the extravagance of her gown and jewellery which is so beautifully rendered. Her son is serious but still lively, unlike his mother.
This portrait of Lucrezia Panciatichi, who along with her husband, was a friend of the artist is very different: again very beautiful as expected but this time confident and sure of herself.
Giovane with a lute is unusual for two reasons: the sitter looks as if he has been distracted by something happening outside the picture and his face is in semi-shade.
It is only when seeing Bronzino’s work next to his direct contemporaries that one can see how his people are almost jumping off the canvas (or wall) as he also painted frescoes including some for Eleonor’s chapel in the Palazzo Vecchio. Each character there is distinctly individual, not just a generic face for the purpose of the tale being told.