Shows & Events
Shows & Events

The sophisticated sweep of Florentine Mannerism

In 1512, after nearly two decades in exile, the Medici family returned to Florence. This event is the opening context for the exhibition Maniera: Pontormo, Bronzino and Medici Florence at the Städel Museum, Germany’s first show on the development of Tuscan Mannerism, the sophisticated, contrived and often strangely playful style that followed the High Renaissance.

The show of 130 objects includes 120 loans and features paintings, drawings, tapestries, sculptures and examples of architecture. Below, we look at three key objects sel ected by the show's curator, Bastian Eclercy.

The Savings Banks Finance Group and the Kulturfonds Frankfurt RheinMain are supporting the show.

Agnolo Bronzino, St Sebastian (around 1528-29). © Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid
Agnolo Bronzino, St Sebastian (around 1528-29). © Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid
Agnolo di Cosimo, known as Bronzino (1503–1572), St. Sebastian (around 1528-29), on loan from the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Madrid


 “There is an interesting ambiguity here between portraiture and the depiction of a saint—between sacred and profane, between a work of art and a piece of devotion," Eclercy says of this picture of St. Sebastian, who is usually portrayed at full body length, with hands bound behind his back or above his head. The vividly-coloured drapery of the saint recalls the influence of Jacopo Pontormo, in whose workshop Bronzino trained. Bronzino would later become the official court painter to Cosimo I de’ Medici (1519-74), the Duke of Florence (1537-59) and the Grand Duke of Tuscany (1569-74), and his wife Eleonora of Toledo (1522-62). The show also explores this period of his work.

Jacopo Pontormo, after a drawing by Michelangelo Buonarroti, Venus and Cupid (around 1533). Galleria dell’Accademia, Florence. © photo Antonio Quattrone

Jacopo Pontormo (1494-1557), Venus and Cupid (around 1533), on loan from the Galleria dell’Accademia, Florence

This painting, which is nearly two metre wide, has never before left Florence since it entered the collection of the Galleria dell’Accademia. Painted after a cartoon by Michelangelo, it is included in a section of the exhibition exploring the paragone—the debate over which art (painting, sculpture or architecture) was most superior. Pontormo was among the artists and intellectuals who took part in the discussion. “This painting is a concrete argument in a theoretical discourse,” Eclercy explains, pointing out the masterfully sculptural quality of the bodies.

Giorgio Vasari, Venus at her Toilet (around 1558). © Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, Stuttgart
Giorgio Vasari, Venus at her Toilet (around 1558). © Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, Stuttgart
Giorgio Vasari (1511-1574), Venus at Her Toilet (around 1558), Staatsgalerie Stuttgart


The show looks at Mannerism through 1568, when the chronicler Giorgio Vasari (1511-74) published the second edition of his book on Renaissance art, The Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects, for which he is most famous today. The exhibition’s final section demonstrates that he was also an important painter and draughtsman. Here, the focus is on this painting of Venus, aided in her toilet by the three graces. It is “all about beauty”, Eclercy says—but it is far from fluff: “It’s a kind of painted treatise on grazia (grace),” Eclercy adds, an ideal whose essence was debated in 16th-century Italy.

• Maniera: Pontormo, Bronzino and Medici Florence, Städel Museum, Frankfurt, 24 February-5 June
Venue details
Städel Museum
Schaumainkai 63, 60596 Frankfurt am Main Germany
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