Agnolo di Cosimo (November 17, 1503 – November 23, 1572), usually known as Il Bronzino, or Agnolo Bronzino (mistaken attempts also have been made in the past to assert his name was Agnolo Tori and even Angelo (Agnolo) Allori), was an Italian Mannerist painter from Florence. The origin of his nickname, Bronzino is unknown, but could derive from his dark complexion, or from that he gave many of his portrait subjects.
Bronzino first received Medici patronage in 1539, when he was one of the many artists chosen to execute the elaborate decorations for the wedding of Cosimo I de' Medici to Eleonora di Toledo, daughter of the Viceroy of Naples. It was not long before he became, and remained for most of his career, the official court painter of the Duke and his court. His portrait figures—often read as static, elegant, and stylish exemplars of unemotional haughtiness and assurance—influenced the course of European court portraiture for a century. These well known paintings exist in many workshop versions and copies. In addition to images of the Florentine elite, Bronzino also painted idealized portraits of the poets Dante (c. 1530, now in Washington, DC) and Petrarch.
Bronzino's best known works comprise the aforementioned series of the duke and duchess, Cosimo and Eleonora, and figures of their court such as Bartolomeo Panciatichi and his wife Lucrezia. These paintings, especially those of the duchess, are known for their minute attention to the detail of her costume, which almost takes on a personality of its own in the image at right. Here the Duchess is pictured with her second son Giovanni, who died of malaria in 1562, along with his mother; however it is the sumptuous fabric of the dress that takes up more space on the canvas than either of the sitters. Indeed, the dress itself has been the object of some scholarly debate. The elaborate gown has been rumored to be so beloved by the duchess that she was ultimately buried in it; when this myth was debunked, others suggested that perhaps the garment never existed at all and Bronzino invented the entire thing, perhaps working only from a fabric swatch. In any case, this picture was reproduced over and over by Bronzino and his shop, becoming one of the most iconic images of the duchess. The version pictured here is in the Uffizi Gallery, and is one of the finest surviving examples.
Bronzino's so-called "allegorical portraits", such as that of a Genoese admiral, Andrea Doria as Neptune, is less typical but possibly even more fascinating due to the peculiarity of placing a publicly recognized personality in the nude as a mythical figure. Finally, in addition to being a painter, Bronzino was also a poet, and his most personal portraits are perhaps those of other literary figures such as that of his friend Laura Battiferri, wife of sculptor/architect Bartolommeo Ammanati.