One of my favorite portrait painters is Agnolo Bronzino (1503-1572); his judgmental, half-dressed beauty was featured in an earlier post.
Most of the people who sat for him were aristocrats (we’re talking de’Medici; he was very, very sought after), people who expected to be flattered by their artists, and I love the contrast between the elaborate surfaces, the icy glamor he lends to many of his subjects, and the quirks, the vulnerability or the ferocity he hints at in so many of his portraits.
A caveat – as is clear by now :), I’m not an art historian, and the identification of some of these people is in doubt; if you’re interested and want to do a little more research, I’d be delighted.
Left to right, top to bottom:
Lucrezia de’Medici: she was married off at the age of fourteen to the Duke of Ferrara, and is widely believed to be the subject of Browning’s poem, “My Last Duchess,” in which a jealous nobleman murders his beautiful wife.
Bia (Bianca) de’Medici, Lucrezia’s illegitimate sister: this is a posthumous portrait, because she died at age six. By all reports, she was extremely affectionate and deeply mourned by her family. The short hair with the little braids may be due to her final illness, but I find it so adorable that I prefer to think of her as a tomboy who rebelled against frequent hairbrushing.
Ferdinando de’Medici: He was Lucrezia and Bia’s brother, and this portrait shows him at age ten. It makes me laugh because he looks so much like my daughter’s friend, the one Rebecca wrote about back in November. It’s the same unshakeable self-confidence. Ferdinando seems to have turned out well, bless his heart.
An unidentified young man with a book: I find this a touching portrayal of adolescent insecurity, but he could have been a pirate, for all I know. You be the judge.
The Holy Family, featuring the sexiest Virgin Mary ever. The angelic face contrasted with the gorgeous body in the semi-transparent dress…this is the first time I’ve seen a madonna whose body didn’t look like a pile of unfolded laundry.
Finally, the beautiful portrait of Alessandro de’Medici. The first Duke of Florence, known as Il Moro, he was assassinated at the age of 26. He was the illegitimate son of Lorenzo II de’Medici. His mother was an African or mixed race woman, described as a slave in one source. I find this picture haunting; he looks burdened, and vulnerable. After his death, his distant cousin Cosimo (father of Lucrezia, Bia, and Ferdinando) became the duke.