Florentine, 1494 - 1556/1557
Monsignor della Casa, probably 1541/1544
oil on panel
overall: 102 x 78.9 cm (40 3/16 x 31 1/16 in.) framed: 134 x 112.4 x 10.2 cm (52 3/4 x 44 1/4 x 4 in.)
Samuel H. Kress Collection
Object 5 of 8
A man must therefore not be content to do things well but must also aim to do them gracefully.
Giovanni della Casa’s description of a gentleman’s deportment, which appeared in Il Galateo, his 1558 book of manners, might also be applied to mannerist painting. Objective reality is tempered by grazia and a self-conscious artifice. Here, Pontormo accentuated della Casa’s long, slender figure. The refined gesture of his elegant fingers holding a book well suits a man who was a humanist scholar, poet, and political adviser as well as a high-placed church official. The sitter’s own grazia is mirrored, even amplified, by the smooth, polished surface of the paint.
Della Casa’s expression is at once reserved and inquiring, aloof but not disengaged. Compare the more chilly elegance of Bronzino’s portrait in this room. Not surprisingly, it was Bronzino who became principal portraitist for Florence’s ruling Medici family: official images had to convey authority and impassive assurance, not humanize their subject with personality.
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