Room 8

Rome, Florence, and Emilia 1510–1560

During the early 16th century, interest in the revival of the Classical ideal among artists and patrons alike led to art of great monumentality, clarity, and principle, as significantly seen in the work of Leonardo, Michelangelo, and Raphael.

Study of the natural world led to ever increasing precision and verisimilitude. This quality is not least evident in the portraiture of the period, as is seen in the vivid likenesses of everyone from Raphael’s Pope Julius II, to the knights of religious orders and unidentified young men portrayed by Andrea del Sarto and his pupils, Jacopo Pontormo, and Rosso Fiorentino.

The latter, as well as other artists of their generation came increasingly to place a premium on the formulation of a recognisable, individual style: the tenderness of Correggio; the elongated elegance of Parmigianino; and the polished, jagged forms and scratchy surfaces of Rosso Fiorentino.

Pontormo and del Sarto, alongside Bacchiacca and Francesco Granacci worked together on a series elaborate bedchamber decorations commissioned for the Florentine palazzo of a wealthy banker, Pierfrancesco Borgherini, on the occasion of his marriage. Fourteen of these painted scenes from the Old Testament story of Joseph survive. Two by Bacchiacca and four by Pontormo are displayed in this room. The latter are notable for their extraordinary, almost dream-like inventiveness and unexpected variety.

Pontormo’s assistant, Bronzino, married attention to naturalistic detail with an acute sense of artificiality to create works of great intensity, as seen in his striking allegory featuring of Venus and Cupid. Classical mythologies were popular with patrons, who, like the man shown in Parmigianino’s portrait, also collected ancient art.