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Bronzino, Portrait of Eleonora of Toledo with her son Giovanni

Video transcript

we're in the effete say and we're looking at Eleonora of toledo it's a painting by Bronzino one of the leading portraitists of the Mannerist period you ain't admitting or troops for the medici family this one for Cosimo de'medici and this one of Cosima's wife and their two-year-old son this is the painting that is I think a little surprising in some ways because we're used to seeing intimacy between mother and child and you would expect that in a family portrait but this is such a cold painting although that aloofness and distance is something that we often see in Mannerist painting very much prized that was very much the attempt here but it's also because this woman comes from the Spanish Court the strictness of Spanish protocol was important to her and she was apparently influential in terms of imposing that courtly manner in the court of the Medici here in Italy but this is a painting very much about the Medici dynasty and assuring the future of that dynasty through their son shown here and through a Leonora as the mother how do we know that she is of the court Irving there's no specific reference to their power except through their wealth look at the size of the jewels and look at the brocade in that gown look at the way in which the satin or the taffeta underneath is so reflective but then you have that heavy brocade it's been applied on top of it but it encases her body almost imprisoning her bronze you know is a master at painting those textures and even the light reflecting on each of the pearls and the jewels that she wears not only around her neck but also around her waist and the gold glistening there but above all there's that aristocratic aloofness and a real detachment and coldness I almost feel her looking down at me she is elevated in a number of different ways not only of course is she sensual and she fills the frame homes completely but Bronzino has lightened the blue of the background right around the back for had almost subtle halo in addition he's created a blemish less skin that is almost no longer elastic commentators are called it alabaster like both mother and son are perfect but they're almost shells they're almost masks there is a kind of absence of an internal spark and a kind of attentiveness that we had come to expect in the Renaissance but of course again this is Mannerist and the Mannerist loved place fast and loose with all of those traditions from the Renaissance and especially naturalism