The Metropolitan Museum of Art displays the following words at the start of its exhibition by Italian Mannerist painter Agnolo Bronzino (1503-1572):
“I say to you briefly that by drawing, I mean that all those things that can be formed with the value, or force, of simple lines.”
These words could not be more appropriate as Bronzino uses just paper and chalk, and incredibly elegant lines, to create drawings that are just as powerful and moving as the Michelangelo‘s statues which were painstakingly carved out of blocks of marble.
Bronzino was the court artist to Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici so it is surprising there has never been an exhibition solely dedicated to his work. However The Met has made amends by pulling together a stunning collection of approximately 60 drawings, which are being shown until April 18.
The New Yorker describes Bronzino as a “new old art star” and argues the modern world is ready for Mannerism :
“The movie “Avatar” strikes me as Mannerist through and through, generating terrific sensations of originality from a hodgepodge of worn-thin narrative and pictorial tropes.”
The New York Times says Bronzino :
“was the hand to hire for a power portrait in mid-16th-century Florence. He could turn toddlers into potentates and make new-money Medicis look like decent people. His painting shaped late Mannerism, the profane, twisty, prosthetic style that erupted, like a repressed libido, between the humanist sanctities of the Renaissance and the smells and bells of the Counter-Reformation.”
and my favourite by Jerry Saltz in New York magazine:
“Bronzino and his contemporaries were the punks and New Wavers of their time. Bronzino’s Italy (like punk’s New York) was a mess: The Plague had struck, and on May 5, 1527, Rome was sacked. Thousands of civilians were killed, churches destroyed, the pope jailed. What were artists to do? Bronzino performed a vivisection on the vocabulary of painting, particularly when it came to portraying overbred, high-strung aristocrats.”