Sunday, 15 September 2013

ART SUNDAY - IL BRONZINO

“The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.” – Aristotle
 

For Art Sunday, “Il Bronzino”, whose original name was Agnolo di Cosimo di Mariano Tori Agnolo (also spelled  Agniolo). Il Bronzino was born November 17, 1503, Florence and died November 23, 1572, in Florence and his polished and elegant portraits are outstanding examples of the Mannerist style. These works are classic embodiments of the courtly ideal under the Medici dukes of the mid-16th century. The artist was well-known and successful during his lifetime and he influenced European court portraiture for the next century.
 

Particularly in his early work, Bronzino was greatly influenced by the work of his teacher, the Florentine painter Jacopo da Pontormo. Bronzino adapted his master’s eccentric, expressive style (early Mannerism) to create a brilliant, precisely linear style of his own that was also partly influenced by Michelangelo and the late works of Raphael. Bronzino served as the court painter to Cosimo I, duke of Florence, from 1539 until his death.
 

His portraits, such as “Eleanor of Toledo with Her Son Giovanni” (a detail of which is shown above), are preeminent examples of Mannerist portraiture: Emotionally inexpressive, reserved, and noncommittal, yet arrestingly elegant and decorative. Bronzino’s great technical proficiency and his stylised rounding of sinuous anatomical forms are also notable. He also painted sacred and allegorical works of distinction, such as “The Allegory of Luxury, or Venus, Cupid, Folly, and Time” (c. 1544–45), which reveals his love of complex symbolism, contrived poses, and clear, brilliant colours.
 

Mannerism (from maniera, “manner,” or “style”), is an artistic style that predominated in Italy from the end of the High Renaissance in the 1520s to the beginnings of the Baroque style around 1590. The Mannerist style originated in Florence and Rome and spread to northern Italy and, ultimately, to much of central and northern Europe. The term was first used around the end of the 18th century by the Italian archaeologist Luigi Lanzi to define 16th-century artists who were the followers of major Renaissance masters.
 

Mannerism originated as a reaction to the harmonious classicism and the idealised naturalism of High Renaissance art as practiced by Leonardo, Michelangelo, and Raphael in the first two decades of the 16th century. In the portrayal of the human nude, the standards of formal complexity had been set by Michelangelo, and the norm of idealised beauty by Raphael. But in the work of these artists’ Mannerist successors, an obsession with style and technique in figural composition often outweighed the importance and meaning of the subject matter. The highest value was instead placed upon the apparently effortless solution of intricate artistic problems, such as the portrayal of the nude in complex and artificial poses.
 

Mannerist artists evolved a style that is characterised by artificiality and artfulness, by a thoroughly self-conscious cultivation of elegance and technical facility, and by a sophisticated indulgence in the bizarre. The figures in Mannerist works frequently have graceful but queerly elongated limbs, small heads, and stylised facial features, while their poses seem difficult or contrived. The deep, linear perspectival space of High Renaissance painting is flattened and obscured so that the figures appear as a decorative arrangement of forms in front of a flat background of indeterminate dimensions.
 

Mannerists sought a continuous refinement of form and concept, pushing exaggeration and contrast to great limits. The results included strange and constricting spatial relationships, jarring juxtapositions of intense and unnatural colours, an emphasis on abnormalities of scale, a sometimes totally irrational mix of classical motifs and other visual references to the antique, and inventive and grotesque pictorial fantasies.

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