Joseph with Jacob and His Brothers, ca. 1546–48 all images via The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Running through April 18 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art is a show dedicated to the Italian Renaissance painter, Agnolo Bronzino. Although best known for his paintings, Drawings of Bronzino, pulls together all 61 known or attributed drawings by this artist. In addition to the unprecedented gathering of the artist’s drawings in one location, this show represents the first solo exhibition of Bronzino’s works. The exhibition features loans, rarely put on public view, from institutions such as Galleria degli Uffizi, Musée du Louvre, British Museum, Royal Library of Windsor Castle, Ashmolean Museum, Kupferstich-Kabinett Dresden, and Staatliche Museen Berlin, as well as private collections. Drawings of Bronzino was organized by the Metropolitan in conjunction with Gabinetto Disegni e Stampe degli Uffizi and the Polo Museale Fiorentino, Florence.
Philippe de Montebello interviews Carmen Bambach, curator of Italian Drawings in the Department of Drawings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, about “The Drawings of Bronzino.” Via THIRTEEN
The exhibition follows a chronological progression through Bronzino’s artistic oeuvre, from his early training, to years as a court artist for the Medici, and finally his late years. Dark blue walls, carpeted floor, and low lighting create an intimate atmosphere in which the viewer is invited to closely examine the works. Most of the drawings feature the human body as their subject, and several were created in preparation for larger paintings and frescoes. These works were not intended to be works of art in themselves. Rather, they were functional drawings and an integral step in planning compositions for paintings. Herein lies the particularly distinctive quality of Bronzino’s drawings, for his works have a refined quality that speak to the artist’s efforts to polish and perfect even the most cursory of sketches.
Many works feature an emphasis on line and silhouette. In works like Study for a Portrait of a Seated Man, one can see where the artist has erased certain lines and emphasized others to create a clearly defined contour of the entire figure.
Some of the most visually compelling works are depictions of impossibly twisted and turned bodies, such as Standing Nude Seen from the Rear and Seated Male Nude. These types of artful contortions are typical of Mannerist art.
The Metropolitan’s Bronzino painting, Portrait of a Young Man, marks the finale of the exhibition. Following the plenitude of drawings, the painting comes as a colorful feast for the eyes and serves as a reminder of the medium through which Bronzino achieved his fame. It is accompanied by recent technical investigations and x-rays of the under drawing. These further illuminate the artistic process by revealing earlier changes and alterations in the composition.
As the son of a Florentine butcher, Bronzino (1503-1572) came from a humble background and achieved great fame as the court artist of the Medici family. He was apprenticed to Jacopo Pontormo whose work actively influenced the Bronzino throughout his career. In addition to his skills as a painter, Bronzino was respected for his draftsmanship as well as his poetry.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art Homepage
Article by Jerry Saltz [NY Magazine]
A Line Both Spirited and Firm [NY Times]
Before the Polished Paintings [WSJ]
Man of Mannerism – Peter Schjeldahl on the drawings of Agnolo Bronzino [The New Yorker]
The Drawings of Bronzino [Financial Times]