Cosimo I de’ Medici in armatura (c.1545)

Bronzino (1503-1572)

Cosimo I de’ Medici in armatura (Cosimo I de’ Medici in armour)
Oil on poplar panel, 86 x 66.8 x 3.5 cm
Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney

Bronzino was the leading painter in mid 16th-century Florence, where he served as court painter to Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici. His portraits are characterised by an intense concentration and an almost unnerving clarity – none more so than this portrait of Cosimo in armour. If the duke’s diverted gaze reveals a sense of anxiety in the still-youthful ruler, his steely reserve is cleverly accentuated by his forbidding armour. Rendered with reflections, highlights and shadows, as well as a rich red velvet lining, Cosimo’s armour is an article of transfixing interest.

Cosimo belonged to a secondary branch of the Medici family and succeeded to the dukedom in 1537 when the main Medici line was extinguished. The sitter’s helmet rests on the Medici broncone – a laurel tree stump with a vigorous leafy side shoot. Its presence suggests that Cosimo was a true heir of the Medici patriarchy and represented an alternative, but forceful, new growth in the family tree. (AGNSW)

See also:

• Medici, Cosimo I de’ (1519-1574)