Jacopo Carrucci, known as Pontormo (Pontormo 1494–1557 Florence)
Portrait of Cosimo I de’ Medici, ca. 1537
oil on panel
39 5/8 x 30 3/8 inches
100.6 x 77 cm
The great Florentine artist Jacopo Pontormo painted this imposing portrait of the eighteen-year-old Cosimo I de’ Medici who had recently been elected Duke of Florence in January 1537. A work of the artist’s mature phase, the portrait typifies Pontormo’s approach to the genre, in which the elegantly elongated and haughtily posed sitter is intensely alive as a psychological presence yet at the same time “hauntingly inaccessible” (Cox-Rearick, op. cit., p. 38).
Un quadro in cornice dorata rappresenta un ritratto di un giovane mezza figura in abito nero alla spagnola con spada e pennacchio bianco sul cappello, tenando in mano un libro mezzo servato stima scudi sessanta (MS., Archivio di Stato, Florence, Carte Riccardi, fil. 278, c. 15; see Costamagna, 1994, op. cit.,p. 242).
Comparison with other portraits of Cosimo argue strongly in favor of identifying the present sitter as the newly-elected Duke. Ridolfo Ghirlandaio’s Cosimo I de’ Medici, aged 12 of 1531 (fig. 2) shows much younger Cosimo, but with a similar round face, wide eyes and small mouth. Bronzino’s allegorical portrait of Cosimo I de’ Medici as Orpheus of ca. 1537-39 (fig. 3), painted around the same time as the present picture, provides clearer evidence for Cosimo’s physiognomy at this stage, which, as Costamagna has observed, is very close to that of the present sitter. Although Berti pointed out that Cosimo always wore a beard after 1537 (Berti, 1990, op. cit., p. 96), the Philadelphia picture suggests that the beard was not yet fully grown, as does a sketch of the Duke, executed in 1543 by Baccio Bandinelli, which shows a rather uneven beard (whereabouts unknown; see Costamagna, 1994, op. cit., p. 242).
Pontormo vs. Bronzino
Although the picture was attributed to Pontormo in the Riccardi inventory of 1612, its authorship was the subject of some debate earlier in the last century. It was offered at Christie’s, London in 1915 and again in 1930 as by Bronzino, an attribution also put forth by Berti in 1964, though Forster assigned it to Bronzino’s studio in that same year. It was exhibited in Baltimore in 1961 as Pontormo and published as such by Berenson two years later. While Simon judged it “close” to Pontormo on the basis of a photograph in 1982, Fabre and Costamagna included it as Pontormo in full in their 1986 catalogue of 16th-century Florentine portraits. More recently, Cox-Rearick, Cropper and Fahy have all decisively endorsed Pontormo’s authorship. In his 1994 catalogue raisonné of Pontormo’s paintings, Costamagna reconfirmed its autograph status, referring to it as a “splendid portrait…in which the spirit is incontestably that of Pontormo’s works…Above all, the modeling of the face and hands, and no less the expression of his gaze” recall the style of the artist (ibid.). Dennis Geronimus, author of the catalogue entry for the painting in the Städel Museum Maniera exhibition (fig. 4) concurs both with the attribution and the identification of the sitter as Cosimo I. He dates it to ca. 1537, the year of Cosimo’s betrothal to Eleanora of Toledo and recognition by the Emperor as Duke of Florence.
More on the dating
Scholars have remarked on the striking similarities in format and pose which the picture bears to Pontormo’s Portrait of a Halberdier in the J. Paul Getty Museum in Malibu, traditionally called a portrait of Cosimo de’ Medici (fig. 5), but recently published by Cropper as possibly representing the Florentine nobleman Francesco Guardi and datable to ca. 1529-30. A similar pose was used by Pontormo in his Portrait of Carlo Neroni(?) of ca. 1530, though it has no architectural background. Although Cropper dates the present picture to the end of the third decade of the 16th century, both circumstantial and stylistic evidence support a dating toward the late 1530s, which the majority of scholars, including Forster, Simon, Costamagna, Cox-Rearick and Geronimus, have endorsed.
The present picture shares commonalities with other of Pontormo’s portraits of the 1530s, such as the Portrait of Alessandro de’ Medici of ca. 1534-35 (fig. 1), which shows a similar angular architectural background, format, and figural proportions. As Costamagna was first to suggest, Pontormo most likely re-used the cartoon for the earlier Getty picture in the genesis of the present portrait, making slight adjustments to the pose as the picture progressed (1994, op. cit., p. 242; see also Cropper, 1997, op. cit., p. 104). The Portrait of Cosimo I de’ Medici also relates to certain of Bronzino’s portraits, in particular, the Portrait of Ugolino Martelli of ca. 1536-37 (fig. 6), which seems to have inspired its architectural setting. The figure’s pose in Bronzino’s Portrait of a Young Man in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (fig. 7) is in turn closely based on that of Cosimo in the present portrait, which Costamagna refers to as the pivotal connection (il cardine) between Pontormo’s portraits of the first third of the century and those of Bronzino and his school.
Although the history of the picture before its mention in the Riccardi inventory of 1612 has yet to be established, Costamagna has hypothesized that, like the Getty Halberdier and Pontormo’s Portrait of Maria Salviati and Giulia de’ Medici (fig. 8), it might have entered the collection of Ottaviano de’ Medici (1484-1546), possibly in 1540, and later, that of his son Alessandro, who could have in turn sold the picture to the wealthy banker, Riccardo Romolo Riccardi, its first documented owner (1994, op. cit., p. 244). Well-established within the Medici court by the end of the 16th century, Riccardi was an avid collector of books, antiquities and Italian pictures, among them works by Raphael, Titian, Andrea del Sarto, Pontormo, Bronzino and Rosso Fiorentino. His collection was especially rich in portraits from the Medici collection: the 1612 inventory of his collection lists “Ventidue ritratti di Casa Medici” (Keutner, op. cit., p. 151). ❖