National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of The Holy Family Agnolo Bronzino (painter)
Florentine, 1503 - 1572
The Holy Family, c. 1527/1528
oil on panel
overall: 101.3 x 78.7 cm (39 7/8 x 31 in.) framed: 147.3 x 123.2 x 8.9 cm (58 x 48 1/2 x 3 1/2 in.)
Samuel H. Kress Collection
Not on View
From the Tour: Mannerism
Object 6 of 8

Once thought to be the work of Pontormo, most scholars now agree this is an early painting by Bronzino, who apprenticed in Pontormo’s workshop. The Virgin’s symmetrically oval face resembles Pontormo’s madonnas, but other elements point to Bronzino’s own emerging style, particularly his use of large areas of color and his isolation of the figures. Although they are linked through gesture and gaze, each seems to be framed within an individual space. The Holy Family almost forms a human still life: the figures are frozen on the surface, their masklike faces lacking humanity. Little emotion shows below the hard, smooth paint surface.

From a distance, we first see a strong linear pattern emerging from the almost abstract interplay of bright figure shapes and the dark background. Yet up close, the work’s precision and particularity dominate. Such tension between abstract composition and intense realism in detail accounts for much of the “strangeness” detected in mannerist paintings.

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