Social History of Art

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16th Mannerism

Bronzino, Martyrdom of St. Lawrence, detail, S. Lorenzo, Florence

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Bronzino, Martyrdom of St. Lawrence, detail, S. Lorenzo, Florence
As the leading painter in mid-fifteenth-century Florence, Bronzino did what many Italian painters had been doing in church art since Michelangelo: he painted as many eroticized male nudes as possible. Ignoring the traditional approach to his subject, he transformed an early Christian martyrdom into a display of his own modern artistry, based heavily on Michelangelo and on the classical male nude, here imaged in two pagan sculptures higher up in the composition. He also added a maternal family group, a secular Madonna and Child, as it were, to appeal to female viewers in this important Florentine church. This pious fig leaf does not obscure the pleasure taken in dozens of naked men who twist and turn to show off their bodies from every possible viewpoint. It was Renaissance religious art like this which led to an official crackdown by the Counter-Reformation after 1540.
Posted by Robert Baldwin on September 12, 2010 Full Size| Slideshow