Agnolo Bronzino, Laura Battiferri degli Ammanati (1555)

Bronzino, Laura Battiferri degli Ammanati (1555)

For any of you who have been in my apartment in Madison you will know that this beautiful and austere lady hangs above my bed with pride of place between Velasquez and Caravaggio. She looks down her nose at the Rokeby Venus' blatant nudity and Caravaggio's Narcissus seems to be distracted by his own beauty with her to his right. My love affair with Laura began when a professor of mine at the Syracuse University in Florence program happened to mention that Bronzino had a very beautiful portrait in the Loeser collection that is on display within the Palazzo Vecchio, I saw her briefly that day and could not get her out of my mind.

Laura Battiferri was a close confidant of Eleanora di Toledo, Cosimo di Medici's Duchess, and was the wife of the great sculptor Bartolommeo Ammanati who was himself a great friend and adviser to Cosimo. Laura is especially interesting because of her activity as well-known and respected poet in Florence during her life. She was a public figure and was well regarded because of her piety and her poetry. She is cast her by Bronzino as Petrarch's beloved "Laura." She embodies Petrarch's love through her "unapproachable, unattainable beauty... as chaste as the adored mistress of a troubadour, as modest and devout as a 'Stilnovismo Beatrice'". "Laura's personality is even more elusive than her external appearance. She remains the incarnation of chaste and noble beauty." This passage is framed by Laura Battiferri's fingers in the portrait.

Laura is shown with Petrarch's sonnets in one hand as she turns disdainfully away from the viewer's eyes. Her profile evokes reference to the great poet Dante in her disproportional nose and stern gaze. Beautiful but austere, Laura looks down from her pedestal, a noble and intelligent beauty from above. Bronzino's characteristic elongation of limbs and neck give Laura a not-of-this-world quality that allows the viewer to associate her with the great poets and their muses of earlier times.

This portrait of Laura Battiferri is one of my favorite works of art, and is by far my favorite female portrait of all time. The symbolism shown in her features and the correlation between her own work and name with Petrarch's sonnets showcase Bronzino's love of riddles and high level of education while her luminous skin and textured clothing exhibit his amble technical ability.

Agnolo Bronzino (November 17, 1503 – November 23, 1572) was the court painter at the Ducal Court in Florence to the Grand Duke Cosimo and Eleanora. He was also a close friend of the Duke's and a close friend of Laura and her husband. Bronzino was part of the Mannerist movement that followed the High Renaissance chronologically in Italy. His teacher was Pontormo and many can see great similarities in their use of bright colors and elongated forms. His contemporaries included Parmigianino (Madonna with a Long Neck) and Giorgio Vasari. Other famous paintings of his include the Venus, Cupid, Folly and Time (c. 1545) in the National Gallery and the Portrait of Eleanora di Toledo (1544-45) in the Uffizi

I must give a personal thanks to Professor Nelson for introducing me to this fascinating work of art.

Link to more information on this painting:


1 comment:

  1. L,
    I saw her for the first time the day before I left Florence (le sigh). I didn't even know the Loser collection was in there! It is completely hidden. Now, wasn't there also something about her profile pose? I believe the profile pose in the Renaissance was reserved for either posthumous portraits or men and, in using it, Bronzino showed his own respect for this well-educated and very respected poet. That is to say, she was so intelligent she was practically a man (sad but true).
    Maybe I made that up. Anyway. So happy you are doing this. Makes me miss Italy so much it hurts. Keep 'em coming. I'm a sucker for mannerists.