Degree Date



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


History of Art


This dissertation focuses on the paintings of the Florentine Mannerist Agnolo Bronzino (1503-1572) and what we call the difference in their styles, which we set within the larger framework of Mannerism as a particular moment in art history.

It is clear that Bronzino’s paintings, as Mannerist, often have been considered inferior by comparison to works of the High Renaissance. But in thinking about Bronzino here we explore the norms of artistic evaluation of both moments as well as the idea of a decline which has coloured so much of what has been said about Mannerism and of Bronzino and his work, especially of his later paintings.

To look in this way at the oeuvre of Bronzino also raises the question of whether here we can see the possibility of his working not in a unified style, but in a number of styles that Bronzino applied to different types of painting. Thus we address the meaning of the word style because of its significance also for positioning Bronzino’s stylistically varied work within the larger artistic context of the period.

Another cultural concept we addressed is the notion of epigonicity. This term we use here to refer to evaluation based on both the idea of stylistic development and then of its decline. Related to the problem of the artistic value of the work done after a forerunner of a style, such epigonicità is used often in the dispute about the artistic quality of the artists who lived in the time after the peak of art was reached with Michelangelo. In this project we examine how far Bronzino can be spoken of as an epigone of Michelangelo.

This dissertation combines several levels of speculation and historiography, taking into account more general descriptions of Mannerism, style(s) and maniera, as well as an analysis of particular paintings by Bronzino. Yet such apparent complexity is in a profound sense a reflection of the Bronzino’s paintings themselves, produced within the richly layered culture of sixteenth-century Florence.


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