If you're seeing this message, it means we're having trouble loading external resources on our website.

If you're behind a web filter, please make sure that the domains *.kastatic.org and *.kasandbox.org are unblocked.

Main content

Bronzino, Portrait of Eleonora of Toledo with her son Giovanni

Bronzino, Portrait of Eleonora di Toledo with her son Giovanni, 1544-1545, oil on panel, 115 x 96 cm (Galleria degli Uffizi). Created by Beth Harris and Steven Zucker.

Want to join the conversation?

Video transcript

(piano playing) Dr. Zucker: We'ere in the Uffizi and we're looking at Eleonora of Toledo. It's a painting by Bronzino, one of the leading portraits of the Mannerist period. Dr. Harris: He painted many portraits for the Medici family, this one for Cosimo de Medici and this one of Cosimo's wife and their 2 year old son. Dr. Zucker: This is a 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. Dr. Harris: Although, that aloofness and distance is something that we often see in Mannerist painting. Dr. Zucker: Very much prized, that was very much the attempt here. 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 Medici here in Italy. Dr. Harris: This is a painting very much about the Medici Dynasty and assuring the future of that Dynasty through their son, shown here and through Elanora, the mother. Dr. Zucker: How do we know that she is of the court? There's no specific reference to their power except through their wealth. Look at the size of the jewels, 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 that's been applied on top of it. It encases her body, almost imprisoning her. Dr. Harris: Bronzino 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 their. But above all there's that aristocratic aloofness and a real detachment and coldness. I almost feel her looking down at me. Dr. Zucker: She is elevated in a number of different ways, not only, of course, is she central and she fills the frame almost completely, but Bronzino has lightened the blue of the background right around the back of her head, almost a subtle halo. In addition he's created blemishless skin that is almost no longer elastic, commentators have 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's love to play fast and loose with all of those traditions from the Renaissance and especially naturalism. (piano playing)