Thursday, 8 September 2011

Bronzino: Venus, Cupid, Folly, and Time (Allegory of Love) c. 1545

Around 1545, Agnolo Tori, called Bronzino (1503-72), painted a complex verbal allegory usually referred to as Venus, Cupid, Folly, and Time. It displays the ambivalence of the Mannerist period in life and art. It also illustrates the Mannerist taste for obscure imagery with erotic overtones.
The painting had been ordered by Cosimo de' Medici, the Duke of Florence. Presumably the imagery appealed to the sophisticated and playfully erotic taste of both the Medici and French courts at this time.
The attention to silky textures, jewels, and masks is consistent with Bronzino's courtly, aristocratic patronage. 
Venus appears as a precious object in a luxurious setting, perversely seductive by her very unapproachability. Crowded into a compressed foreground are several figures whose identities and purpose have been the subject of extensive scholarly discussion. The painting appears to be about lust, fraud, and envy. It has also been called a "Triumph of Venus" or "The Allegory of Love". Its meaning, however, remains elusive.

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