The Drawings of Bronzino “Seated Nude Youth Playing Panpipes,” in the show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. (Photo: Louvre Museum)

Agnolo Bronzino’s 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.

At his peak, in the 1550s, Bronzino was the most influential painter in Florence. And although his reputation went into eclipse, it never went away. By the 20th century he was back. In Henry James’s 1902 “Wings of the Dove” a Bronzino portrait of a noblewoman, “with her long neck, her recorded jewels, her brocaded and wasted reds,” is the culminating symbol of evanescent magnificence around which that deeply mannered novel turns.


Holland Cotter
New York Times