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  • Writer's pictureBeyond the Canvas

The Unforgettables: Bronzino's Portrait of a Young Man - The Met, New York

Just like we love real people, I hereby decree that it is entirely acceptable to have feelings for the subject of a painting. For I have been on many dates with this impertinent young lad who, in turn, has consistently failed to reciprocate my attentions. Ah, unrequited love.

Bronzino is one of the masters of Italian Mannerism, aka Renaissance on steroids, a style that is wedged between the High Renaissance and the Baroque (c. 1520 onwards). Mannerists moved away from the harmonious aesthetics of their predecessors in favour of a stylised and exaggerated treatment of the human form. Men and women alike have sinuous swan-like necks, elongated limbs, and long, tapering fingers. The are often depicted in unrealistic surroundings as they strike unnatural poses in order to convey a maximum of drama.

Just like this chap. Look at the emphasis on his left hand so firmly placed on the hip, defiantly pushing it forward. The presence of the book indicates that he might be a poet, most certainly someone sophisticated and intellectual, while the richness of the black fabric and the elegance of the home setting speak of his elevated social status. Handsome, aloof and slightly arrogant, he's like the bad boyfriend you can't stay away from.

Agnolo Bronzino, Portait of a Young Man (c. 1530)

The Metropolitan Museum, New York

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Barbara Giunchi
Barbara Giunchi
May 15, 2020

Thank you Francesca! I really enjoyed reading your review. I didn't even know about Mannerism until I read this - it's fascinating how Bronzino managed to convey the subject's personality by focusing on posture and his facial expression. I love the details of this painting, such as the index finger used as a bookmark for example. I think it shows that the subject is also quite meticulous. Have a lovely weekend x

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