"I say to you briefly that by drawing I mean all those things that can be formed with the value, or force, of simple lines." This definition was offered by Agnolo Bronzino (Florentine, 1503–1572) in a dialogue written in 1560–70. Drawings by this famed Italian Mannerist painter are extremely rare. For the first time ever, nearly all the sixty sheets known to be reasonably attributed to this leading artist of sixteenth-century Italy are brought together in this important and beautiful publication. Combining detailed scholarly content and lavish illustrations, the volume explores Bronzino's talent as a draftsman, together with his mastery of anatomy and perspective. These qualities are vividly apparent in each stroke of the chalk, pen, or brush in works on paper that range from studies of singular heads to modelli of complex scenes made for tapestries.
From 1540 onward, Bronzino was court painter to Cosimo de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, and herein you will see examples of his portraits of Cosimo, his wife, Duchess Eleonora di Toledo, and their children. They demonstrate Bronzino's sensitivity for elegant composition as well as his acute powers to create mood and capture the psychology of his aristocratic sitters. One of the artist's most ambitious projects for the princely couple is a fresco cycle for the private Chapel of Eleonora di Toledo, and this book includes drawings he executed for that Chapel in the Palazzo Vecchio, Florence. Also included are sheets that contributed to his designs for a series of tapestries on the Old Testament Story of Joseph, intended for one of the audience halls of the Palazzo Vecchio. Bronzino was among the founders of the Accademia del Disegno in Florence, the first art academy in Europe, and he is said to have had many pupils. The younger generations of Florentine artists particularly admired him for his technical virtuosity as a painter, and even Giorgio Vasari grudgingly praised him for his powers as a disegnatore (designer and draftsman) in his well-known Lives of the Artists.
The five essays in this catalogue cover the subject of Bronzino's draftsmanship through consideration of his life, the critical responses to his drawings from his lifetime to the twentieth century, his theory and practice in drawing, and his portraits. The authors contributed research that adds greatly to our understanding of Bronzino's place in the history of Florentine drawing. In the sixty-two entries that follow, each individual sheet is analyzed in substantial detail. Every drawing is illustrated in color and is accompanied by comparative photographs. Sixty-two related paintings and tapestries follow the entry section, reproduced as full-page color illustrations that further enhance knowledge of Bronzino's drawing even as they display his celebrated accomplishments in those mediums.
This engaging volume accompanies an exhibition held at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The curators, who also wrote the entries in this catalogue, are Carmen C. Bambach, Curator, Department of Drawings and Prints, The Metropolitan Museum of Art; Janet Cox-Rearick, Distinguished Professor Emerita, The Graduate Center, City University of New York; and George R. Goldner, Drue Heinz Chairman, Department of Drawings and Prints, The Metropolitan Museum of Art.