drawings at the Met
by Robert Sievert
Several interesting things emerge when one visits
the Bronzino exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum
(now through April 17). One thing is the scarcity
of paper at the disposal of Renaissance artists.
These drawings (60 of the known 62) are mostly
done on letter-sized pages; many spaces are filled
with more than one image.
Bronzino was a major artist of Florence at a time
when the political climate of the city-state was
in constant upheaval, (the sixteenth century). The
Medici family staged several campaigns to maintain
rule over Florence. An extraordinary artistic
climate gave birth to Michelangelo and other
giants of the Renaissance. There seemed to be an
incredible will to produce and create art.
Commissions were to be had. Yet most of the city's
premier artists chose to operate outside their
home environment, mainly because of the political
This left Bronzino as the authoritive hand to
record the likenesses of the Florentine notables.
His artistic collaborations with Portomo were the
height of Florentine art.
The drawings were mostly preparatory studies for
painting projects and were not seen as finished
products. But if one isolates the original
intention of these drawings and views them as sole
works of art they are incredibly satisfying. The
beauty of his models are arresting. His
3/4-quarter view of a young woman's head is sweet
beyond reckoning. Details and facial features are
achieved through tonal shifts. As with most of his
portrait drawings there is a psychological depth
in which the artist seems to present a
psychological essence as well as a physical
likeness of his subjects.
There are examples of his compositional work.
JOSEPH WITH JACOB AND HIS BROTHERS. This is an
example of late renaissance art that somewhat
fascinates me. Intense compositions of nudes in
which little space is not occupied by twisting
bending nudes together furthering a theme. It is
as if the artists of the time tried to fit as much
of a catalogue of anatomy as possible.
Included in the show are several paintings,
one of which is the MARTYDOM OF ST. LAWRENCE --
a treat for torture fans to see Saint
Lawrence barbequed on a grill. This painting was
commissioned to honor Catherine Medici. You'll have
to see the show as I was unable to find a
reproduction; to be honest it's not that gory
but it does reference the underlying sadism of the
All in all you'll need a good amount of time as the
drawings are small, the rooms are crowded with art,
and subsequently the viewers the night I saw it
moved at a snail's pace to take in this intense